Breaking Down The Jeff Mathis Trade

Last night, the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins reached an agreement on a historical 12-player trade that included backup catcher Jeff Mathis (pictured futilely swinging above) that immediately changes the landscape for both teams.

Mathis, fondly known around the league as “the worst hitter in baseball history” recently signed a two-year, $3 million contract (that notably did not have a no trade clause) with Toronto near the end of the season. Despite finishing with a career high .218/.249/.393 line and .277 wOBA this year, he really was still probably the worst hitter in the league.

While Mathis carries a reputation for being a great defensive catcher and being able to handle pitchers very well, the stats don’t really support him as anything more than barely above average. DRS gives him a few runs above average, and he’s actually been below average at catching runners for his career at 26%, although he did just have a great 2012 season with the Blue Jays at 41%. And Baseball Prospectus numbers on pitch framing have him solidly…slightly above average, saving about 7 runs per 120 games. I mean it’s not nothing, but with light hitting, hustle/all heart/plays the right way/white guys it’s usually the case that their glove side capacities are a little exaggerated.

After claiming backup catcher Bobby Wilson off waivers from the Angels earlier this month (marking the third catcher, including Mathis, that Toronto had plundered from the Angels in three years) something figured to give. With the Blue Jays carrying four catchers on their 40 man roster, including incumbent starter JP Arencibia, top prospect Travis d’Arnaud, Mathis, and Wilson it was a given that at least one of them would be traded away. If Toronto wasn’t going to part with top prospect d’Arnaud (ranked 17th in Baseball America’s Top 100 list this year), conventional wisdom would have made be believe the Marlins would have asked for the Florida native and Cuban-American JP Arencibia, who is also younger, cheaper, and most importantly not the worst hitter in baseball history.

How Toronto ended up sending Jeff Mathis instead, I’ll never know as I’m sure the difference here would neither make or break such a deal. But today we say goodbye to a man who was indeed professionally employed to play catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays for 70 games…and also as a relief pitcher for two innings in blowout games. It is true that he has now been traded. And that is what I have just finished saying about Jeff Mathis.

There were also some other players involved in the deal, but they aren’t very important.

Here is what baseball brainiac Keith Law had to say about Mathis in his Insider article breakdown of the trade.

Jeff Mathis has a career .256 OBP in more than 1,500 plate appearances and is probably best not discussed any further.

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