Would the Angels really break up the not-so-dynamic duo at long last?
Apparently it is never too early to start trade speculation and the Angels certainly aren't immune to such talk as already the Halos are being hounded by chatter that they could and should look to trade away one of their catchers now that Jeff Mathis has seemingly grabbed a hold of the starting job once and for all.
That sounds like a great idea, assuming of course, that logic, reason and practicality aren't part of your decision making process.
I love making up trades as much as the next guy, but all the effort people are spending trying to conjure up trade scenarios centered around Mike Napoli is just going to go to waste because the Angels aren't nearly stupid enough to make such a blunder, at least not this early in the season.
On the surface, trading away Napoli does have a ring of logic to it. Mathis is the full-time starter right now and Mike Napoli has too potent a bat to waste away on the bench. Surely some team would be willing to pay a handsome price to get their hands on a slugging catcher that the Angels seemingly no longer have a use for. You have to admit, it makes a lot of sense. Except for one problem,.
The problem, it turns out, is the same thing that created this speculation in the first place: Jeff Mathis. Somehow in the last two weeks, Jeff Mathis has hit so well that he managed to erase from the collective consciousness of Angel fans the fact that he couldn't hit worth a damn for three-plus year of his career. All of the sudden the same man that many once joked should have the Mendoza line renamed after him is an offensive stalwart? I must have missed that office memo. Maybe we might want to think twice about shipping his offensive safety net (and BFF!) out of town.
Maybe I am just being a cynic, but I am not ready to buy into Jeff Mathis no longer being an offensive liability, not after a mere two weeks. Honestly, I am not even sure I would be willing to buy in after two months. Two years, maybe, but even that might be pushing it. That is how bad Mathis has been as a professional hitter in his young career. If the Angels did deal away Mike Napoli and Mathis reverted back to his decrepit offensive form, they would be stuck with a giant black hole in a line-up that hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard thus far this season. They'd still have Bobby Wilson around as Jeff's actual back-up, but there is zero guarantee that he'd be able to hold his own at the plate in the big leagues.
I have to confess, I do think there is some logic in trading away Napoli. If he is never going to be good enough defensively to make Mike Scioscia happy, then he has to be written off as a lost cause. And if that is really the case, then the sooner they trade him the better because he will only lose trade value with every day he sits and rots on the Angel bench. I just refuse to believe that his defense has slipped so badly in the last six months that Scioscia believes he is beyond salvage. Napoli is too proven a commodity with his bat to abandon because of a prolonged defensive slump. Few catchers in this league can hit with the power Naps has displayed in every year of his career and Tony Reagins could end up looking like a total dunce if Napoli landed with another team and finally got a starting job to himself and blossomed into the All-Star catcher that he has shown flashes of over the last few years.
Perhaps a better idea would be cash out on Mathis while his value is at an all-time high? Bobby Wilson may not be able to hit, but he has a great defensive reputation, so he should be just fine as a back-up to Mike Napoli, so there is no real risk there. All the Angels would have to do in that case is have Sosh work hard with Napoli to get his defense up to an acceptable level and, voila, Mathis is made obsolete and free to be dealt to whichever team can't see that he might be a giant nugget of fool's gold. He won't return quite as much value as Napoli, but he would definitely bring in more of a haul than he would have this past summer.
Or maybe the Angels should just do the sensible thing and keep both Napoli and Mathis like they have the last three years. Both players have great strengths and great flaws, but these two manage to cover for each others deficiencies perfectly. It may not be a perfect arrangement, but if the alternative is to potentially get stuck with just one catcher that can't hit, I'll take the imperfect option anytime.