Sarge for Stokes

Mark it down. January 22nd of 2010, the impossible has happened. Tony Reagins actually found a trading partner for Gary Matthews Jr! Obviously Omar Minaya couldn’t just sit back and let Dayton Moore sign Rick Ankiel and not react. No, surely The Contest trumps all and Minaya must have immediately begun searching out a way to put the hammer down on Moore. Of course; Matthews! Was Vernon Wells not available?

The above was the instant reaction for most people I saw as the news worked its way around the internet community. Taking a step back though, and much like yesterday’s Ankiel signing, I don’t think this is an awful deal for the Mets.

The details as currently reported says that the Angels are eating $21.5 million of the $23.5 million owed to Matthews over the next two years so the Mets are essentially getting Matthews on a 2-year, $2 million contract. In return, the Mets are shipping Brian Stokes back to Anaheim.

Now, Matthews Jr is awful. Do not assume I am defending him here, though he might get a minor tick better playing CF again. Stokes is not good either however. He struck out 45 and walked 38 last season and overall, he’s a below average 30-year-old reliever. He’s also coming off a decent season, ERA-wise and set to make about a half-million in 2010 and then enter arbitration.

End result? The Mets pay Matthews $1 million in 2010, expected to produce pretty much nothing. The Angels pay Stokes about $0.5 million in 2010, expected to produce pretty much nothing. The Mets certainly could have found a better player to be Carlos Beltran insurance, and so the wasted roster spot has some cost, but that would be based on how the Mets actually utilize Matthews rather than a variable of the trade itself. In terms of just this particular swap, I feel that its impact to both teams bottom line win and salary totals are close to a wash. It might be a pointless trade, but I don’t see either team getting the upper hand.

We hoped you liked reading Sarge for Stokes by Matthew Carruth!

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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James Kannengieser

Worth noting that Stokes is almost certainly not one of the top 7 relievers in the Mets org. I don’t think he would have made the Opening Day roster, barring injuries. It’s almost like they traded an old, garbage prospect for a guy who will take up a big league roster spot and perform at replacement level.

I do mostly agree though – it’s generally a wash.


Rob Neyer notes that Matthews cost the Angels over $5M-worth of wins since they started playing him.

“But according to Wins Above Replacement, in the first three years of that five-year deal, Matthews has been worth negative $5.2 million.”

How is this not a loss for the Mets? Even a replacement-level player is a loss if traded for a guy with negative value. The only possible way this isn’t a bad deal for New York is if Matthews improves substantially — but you can’t used results-based analysis to rate a trade, can you?


No, but you can use things like scouting, medical history and advanced projection systems to predict that a player might, going forward, out-perform his recent history, and thus make the judgement that Sarge may be an above-replacement-level OF over the next 2 years.

Of course, I’m not convinced that the Mets actually employ any of these tools in player evaluation, so he’s probably just pretty much trading for someone that he’s heard of who he remembers used to play some centrefield at some point in the past…