Mathis signs two-year extension; Torrealba added

Mathis signs two-year extension; Torrealba added

Mathis signs two-year extension; Torrealba added
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays signed veteran catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2015 on Tuesday afternoon.

Mathis will make $1.5 million in each of the first two seasons. The club option is worth another $1.5 million but does not include a buyout.

The 29-year-old Mathis entered Tuesday's action hitting .215 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 46 games. He spent the vast majority of the year as a backup to J.P. Arencibia but then assumed No. 1 duties when the second-year catcher fractured his right hand late last month.

"If we didn't have him, we were going to look for someone like him either way," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Mathis. "Obviously, J.P.'s a starter and prior to this year, he's a guy that can handle the load and catch a lot of games.

"Jeff's a great complement to him. We know he's a great defender, he's a tremendous athlete, he's a great teammate and I think he accepts the role and he understands the role and he's still a competitor. If we don't have him, we're looking for that guy."

Mathis said the Blue Jays first approached his agent about a possible extension a few weeks ago but the negotiations didn't really become serious until this week. He would have been eligible for free agency at the end of the season for the first time in his career but a guaranteed two years was too much to pass up on.

The native of Florida said he was just happy to get the process out of the way and can now look forward to spending at least a couple of more seasons with an emerging core of players around him.

"Just this group of guys, the staff and the way I feel this organization is headed," Mathis said of his main reason for staying. "I've established a good relationship with a lot of the guys here, a lot of the coaches and all that, so I'm looking forward to being on this team and seeing where it can go."

The signing is a possible indicator that the Blue Jays will be forced to pick either Arencibia or top prospect Travis d'Arnaud to become their catcher of the future. With Mathis under a guaranteed deal, carrying both Arencibia and d'Arnaud at the same time could create some problems.

Anthopoulos tried to downplay that notion on Tuesday by suggesting d'Arnaud could see some time at designated hitter next season depending on what happens with Adam Lind during the offseason. That would seem like an unusual move for an organization that wouldn't want to stunt d'Arnaud's development behind the plate, but Toronto's GM believes d'Arnaud has enough potential on offense to make it an asset.

"Travis could find some ABs there," Anthopoulos said. "Who knows what the offseason is going to bring, it's amazing how quickly things can change. I'd rather have too many players than too few. There's always a way to work those things out."

Mathis hasn't enjoyed a lot of success on offense during his Major League career but has garnered a reputation for being one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He'll be able to take a leadership role as a veteran backup to either Arencibia or d'Arnaud next year and beyond.

In 472 career games, Mathis is a .196 hitter with 32 home runs and 158 RBIs spread out over eight seasons. He was acquired during the offseason from the Angels for left-handed reliever Brad Mills.

After announcing Mathis' deal, the club announced the signing of Yorvit Torrealba to a Minor League deal. Torrealba was placed on waivers by the Rangers last week and while he could help fill the void following Arencibia's injury, it would be very unlikely Toronto would consider bringing him back for 2013.

Torrealba was assigned to Double-A New Hampshire, where he is scheduled to appear in four games. He will then join the Blue Jays on Tuesday in Detroit and begin to split starting duties with Mathis until Arencibia is able to return.

"It's an established big league player that has had some success," Anthopoulos said. "Jeff's been handling the bulk of the role right now, him and Torrealba will split the job.

"We'll see how things go but Jeff knows about it and I even called J.P. about it as well so no one's confused. This is a chance to get a quality big league player and at this stage, it was a no-brainer for us."