Anthopoulos didn’t talk to Napoli until it was time to tell him he was headed to Texas for closer Frank Francisco.
The Jays moved Mills, 26, who wasn’t expected to be in the starting rotation, for Mathis, 28, a spare part with the arrival this week of Chris Iannetta from the Colorado Rockies. Angels fans preferred Napoli’s booming bat.
Mills was 1-2 with a 9.82 ERA in five games with the Jays and 11-9 with a 4.00 ERA starting for triple-A Las Vegas. He had 36 walks and 136 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings, allowing one home run per 9.2 innings.
Mike Scioscia, one of the game’s best managers and one of the best catchers, preferred Mathis over Napoli because Mathis was better defensively.
“Scoscia always stressed catching was No. 1,” said Mathis from Alabama on a deer hunting trip. “I came to enjoy it. Part of it is knowing how to approach a pitcher.”
Mathis replaces Jose Molina, who asked for a meeting with the Jays to discuss a contract for 2012 before the team headed on its final trip of the season. When a meeting wasn’t granted Molina knew he was a goner.
He’s signed a $1.8 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Jays offered salary arbitration to Molina so they will pick up a draft pick next June.
Mathis is regarded an ideal back-up by scouts as he “blocks balls, works well with pitchers, gives a proper target, and is mechanically sound.”
Mathis is coming off a season in which he hit .174 in 91 games as the Angels’ No. 1 catcher (79 starts) with a .484 OPS. His previous three seasons, starting in 2008, show seasonal averages of .194, .211 and .195 for a career average of .194 in 463 games.
Yet, last January the Angels didn’t mind moving Napoli and going with Mathis, who had a catcher’s ERA 0.88 (almost a full run) better than Napoli over the previous four years, plus the Angels won 59% of games he started.
A first-round pick from Marianna, Fla., he was the second catcher drafted in 2001. Joe Mauer went first over-all to the Minnesota Twins. Mathis was selected 33rd over-all, or 15 selections after the Jays chose Gabe Gross with their first pick.
Mathis was headed to Florida State to play football in 2001, with the Angels assuming he’d hit .270 eventually. Now, the Jays would be happy with .230.
While Mathis, who earned $1.7 million US this season, owns a reputation as being a catch-and-throw guy, he was in the spotlight during the 2009 post-season: hitting .585 (7-for-12) with five doubles, a homer and a game-winning RBI with a 1.583 OPS in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.
“That was a blast to be able to contribute,” said Mathis. “I was with the Angels for 11 years and enjoyed the time I was there.”
Mathis leaves a team which has reached post-season play five of the previous eight seasons to join the Jays, who haven’t advanced in 18 years.
GILLICK PINCH HITS
Pat Gillick, Hall of Fame GM, pinch hits for ill Hall of Fame right-hander Don Sutton Sunday in Dallas when a 16-man committee meets behind closed doors to vote on the golden era Hall of Fame ballot.
Players Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds, Ron Santo and Luis Tiant, along with former GMs Buzzie Bavasi, father of Jays original president Peter Bavasi, and Charlie Finley are on the ballot.
As in the January vote, to-be-elected candidates must appear on 75% of the ballots. Jane Forbes Clark will announce the results Monday morning.
The committee now consists of hall of famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Billy Williams and Gillick; as well as executives Paul Beeston (Jays), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks), Gene Michael (Yankees) and Al Rosen (retired), plus media members Dick Kaegel (MLB.com), Jack O’Connell (BBWAA) and Dave Van Dyck (Chicago Tribune).