Griffin: Jays acquire Jeff Mathis as backup catcher
Just as they did last winter, the Jays got things going early before the formal sessions started in terms of the trade department. Whereas last season it was a blockbuster with the Brewers, sending staff ace Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for infielder Brett Lawrie, this time on Saturday, GM Alex Anthopoulos reached out to acquire backup catcher Jeff Mathis from the Angels for lefthanded starter Brad Mills. Mathis will have the first chance at replacing Jose Molina as second receiver to starting catcher J.P. Arencibia. Molina signed as a free agent with the Rays, leaving a supplemental draft pick next June.
Coincidentally, Mathis, 28, had stepped in for Molina as the No. 2 receiver for the Angels in '07 and is doing it again with the Jays. Arbitration eligible this year and a free agent after 2013, Mathis is not an offensive threat, but is respected for his game calling. The righthanded hitter batted .174 with the Angels in 93 games in 2011, with a paltry .484 OPS. His career batting average is .194, while throwing out 27-percent of baserunners attempting to steal for his career. Strangely, Mathis in 10 post-season games with the Angels batted .450 with a 1.150 OPS.
The Jays have the 25-year-old J.P. Arencibia as the starting catcher, who was named the team's rookie-of-the-year. His 23 homers in 2011 tied for fourth all-time among rookie catchers. Super-prospect Travis D'Arnaud, 23, was named Eastern League MVP in 2011, but is expected to start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Mathis earned $1.7 million in arbitration in 2011 and is eligible again, although his statistics will keep him in the $2.0 million range. Molina earned $1.0 million as the backup in 2011. The Jays will have to make a roster move before adding Mathis to the 40-man, likely waiving the current backup catcher, Brian Jeroloman.