The Angels have emerged as the favorites to land free-agent center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., whose career year with the Texas Rangers has put him in line for a four- or five-year deal that will probably net him at least $10 million a year.
Matthews, 32, had lunch Tuesday with Angels Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Bill Stoneman, emerging from a 1 1/2 -hour meeting feeling even better about a team he has targeted since the end of a 2006 season in which he hit .313 with 102 runs, 44 doubles, 19 home runs, 79 runs batted in and a .371 on-base percentage.
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Matthews said it “wouldn’t be a stretch” to say the Angels are the leading candidate to sign him.
Matthews, whose highlight-reel catches made him a regular on ESPN’s “Web Gem” segments last season, wouldn’t provide the booming bat that the Angels, who failed to land free-agent sluggers Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, were seeking to protect Vladimir Guerrero.
But he would be a defensive upgrade over Chone Figgins, he would provide considerably more power out of the leadoff spot, and he would enable the Angels to move Figgins back to third base and down in the order, or package Figgins in a trade for a power hitter.
In light of where the market has headed over the past few weeks, I have to conclude the following :
a) Omar Minaya, criticized on more than one occasion for overpaying for talent, was extremely savvy in locking up David Wright and Jose Reyes last summer. Can you imagine what either would be worth on the open market a year from now?
b) There’s no way Jeromy Burnitz can stay retired with these sums being tossed around. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, either.
(UPDATE : It’s official, 5 years, $50 million, and Matthews is a Halo. It might’ve taken a few years for the market to come around, but A-Rod and Carlos Beltran are looking like relative bargains today).