Hired as Angels general manager in late October, Jerry Dipoto waited a month to begin reshaping the Los Angeles roster through trade. He waited two days to swing a second deal, sending catch-and-throw backstop Jeff Mathis to the Blue Jays for 26-year-old lefthander Brad Mills, who started the 2011 Triple-A all-star game for the Pacific Coast League. He finished the season with 136 strikeouts and a 1.27 WHIP, both of which ranked second in the PCL.
Dipoto’s first trade with the Angels netted veteran backstop Chris Iannetta from the Rockies, a move that displaced Mathis as starter. Angels manager Mike Scioscia loved Mathis’ defensive work and leadership qualities behind the plate, but the catcher’s bat did not develop with regular play. Mathis started roughly half the Angels’ games from 2008-11, and in those four years no regular catcher approached his bottom-feeding .546 OPS. Arbitration eligible for the third and final time, Mathis still runs the risk of being non-tendered at the Dec. 12 deadline, even with the change in employers.
Barring the acquisition of another catcher, the Angels will start Iannetta in 2012 and back him up with either Bobby Wilson, who is out of options, or 2011 rookie Hank Conger.
Brad Mills, lhp Age: 26.
Born: March 5, 1985 in Mesa, Ariz.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Career Transactions: Selected by Blue Jays in fourth round of 2007 draft; signed June 14, 2007.
Las Vegas (PCL)
Mills’ plus changeup and deceptive delivery served him well in the minors, but he’s been rocked for an 8.57 ERA in 48 1/3 big league innings. His 45 strikeouts for Toronto were balanced by 31 walks and 23 hits allowed (1.82 WHIP). Mills sits in the mid-80s with a fringy fastball that features minimal life, but he stays tall in his delivery and throws across his body to such an extent that opposing batters don’t see the ball well. His mid-70s changeup dives out of the strike zone, while he throws a decent low-70s slow curveball with some depth. Mills’ repertoire and funky delivery would seem to suggest a career as a low-leverage reliever or spot starter. He hasn’t shown much of a platoon split in the big leagues or in Triple-A, but his most remarkable trait may be that he appeared unfazed by the harsh reality of spending three years pitching in Las Vegas, a renowned hitter’s haven. Mills made 28 home starts for the Jays’ Vegas affiliate from 2009-11 and notched a 4.11 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in that time, compared with a 4.54 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 30 road starts. Mills could qualify for a fourth option year in 2012, assuming the clause still exists in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Blue Jays Acquire
Jeff Mathis, c
Age: 28. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2012, then can opt for free agency following the season ($1.7 million salary in 2011). Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.