- The Washington Times - Friday, January 22, 2010

NEW YORK | Gary Matthews Jr. was traded from the Los Angeles Angels to the New York Mets on Friday for right-handed reliever Brian Stokes.

Matthews, who will compete with Angel Pagan to play center field while Carlos Beltran starts the season on the disabled list, is owed $23 million over two seasons as part of his $50 million, five-year contract.

The Angels agreed to send the Mets $21.5 million as part of the trade, a person familiar with the details told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the amount was not announced. The money includes $500,000 to reimburse the Mets for a trade bonus they must pay Matthews as the acquiring team, meaning the outfielder will cost New York a total of $2 million over two seasons.

“He’s a very versatile player,” Mets general manager Omar Minaya said on a conference call. “With Carlos or without Carlos, I just think he makes our team better.”

Matthews was briefly with the Mets but had only one at-bat with them. New York purchased him from Pittsburgh in December 2001, then traded him to Baltimore just before the 2002 season for left-hander John Bale.

Matthews hit .313 with 19 homers and 79 RBIs for Texas in 2006, when he made the AL All-Star team, then signed the big deal with the Angels that turned out to be the worst contract in the team’s history. He slumped to a .252 average with 18 homers and 72 RBIs during his first season in Anaheim, then lost his center field job when the Angels signed Torii Hunter.

Matthews had 46 RBIs in 2008 and 50 last year, when he started 80 games. Now 35, he is the son of Gary Matthews, the 1973 NL Rookie of the Year.

“I think this is going to be mostly a change-of-scenery guy,” Minaya said. “The fact that we have him for the next two years at a very reasonable price — I think the key for him is just going to be playing time. … I think he might be able to get more playing time here as the year goes on.”

SI.com reported in February 2007 that Matthews was sent human growth hormone by Applied Pharmacy in August 2004, an accusation he denied. Major League Baseball concluded there was insufficient evidence to discipline him.

The 30-year-old Stokes was 2-4 with a 3.97 ERA last season, setting career highs for games (69) and innings (70 1-3). He spent the last two seasons with the Mets after making his big league debut for Tampa Bay.

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