Angel Pagan hit more triples than anyone in franchise history, gave the San Francisco Giants their first dangerous leadoff hitter in years, and played 170 games in center field for the World Series champions. In return, the Giants have saluted their center fielder with a generous contract that, on the surface, seems fair and reasonable.
Yes, fair and reasonable. B.J. Upton, whose OBP sunk to .298 during the 2012 season, signed with the Atlanta Braves for five years and $75 million. Scott Boras reportedly thinks Michael Bourn should get over $100 million in his next deal. Yes, the same Bourn who stole 13 more bases than Pagan in 2012 … yet collected 16 fewer extra-base hits. Bourn also had 155 strikeouts in 2012, four fewer than Pagan had in 2011 and 2012 combined. Bourn’s a good player and he’s fast as hell, but is he worth twice what Pagan reportedly received?
That fourth year will earn the Giants some scrutiny, given that Pagan will turn 35 in 2016 and the Giants have been hesitant to sign position players to deals longer than three years after the Aaron Rowand fiasco. But this isn’t a case of the Giants overpaying for a guy coming off a career year.
Pagan actually had his best year in 2010 with the New York Mets, when he was better than a 5.0 WAR player according to both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs (in 2012 he was a 4.0 WAR player according to BR, 4.8 according to FG). His fielding metrics were off the charts two seasons ago, when he split time among all three outfield spots.
Pagan’s days as a center fielder will probably be behind him when he’s 35, so hopefully by then Gary Brown will finally be ready and Pagan can slide over to left. Or, Brown will continue to tinker with his swing in the minors for years and the Giants will find another center fielder.
(I just looked at Brown’s minor league numbers, and something jumped out at me. No, not his 2012 regression in Richmond. I already knew he had trouble in Double-A. I had no idea Brown has taken 45 HBPs in 1,302 professional plate appearances. 45! You know how many times Pagan has been plunked in his Major League career, over twice as many plate appearances? Two.)
Keeping Pagan signals a shift in the Giants’ philosophy that has taken place over the last couple years. With the knowledge that they’ll always face difficulties luring power-hitting outfielders to San Francisco to play in a cold park with pitching-friendly dimensions, they’re looking for a certain type of outfielder — durable guys who can run. That’s also why the Giants went after Melky Cabrera before the 2012 season, and why they had no problem trading Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz, two guys who can run just fine … until they pull something.
The Giants’ outfield situation would’ve looked pretty bleak without Pagan or a suitable replacement, and there’s probably some truth to the idea that Brian Sabean felt good rewarding Pagan for playing through minor injuries and providing stability after the Giants lost Cabrera. Since sources said Pagan was looking for five years, Tim Brown’s report shows that either the Giants negotiated well, Pagan wanted to come back, or both. Regardless, the Giants have to be extremely pleased to get this deal done with plenty of time to draw up the specs for some Pagan Gnomes.
The Giants don’t have anywhere near the TV money the Dodgers will start collecting next season, but they’re rich. Mega rich. How many thousands of commemorative World Series DVDs, hats, sweatshirts and t-shirts will be purchased for gift-giving purposes over the next couple weeks? They’re going to sell out every game at AT&T Park next season and for several years thereafter. They didn’t accomplish this feat the way a team in the AL East might, but they have become the Red Sox of the West Coast.
They can afford an extra year of Pagan. If he loses a step or three and starts missing one sign per game instead of one sign per month, the Giants can clean up their mess relatively easily. That’s the benefit of being a successful team located in a top-five market in a sport with no salary cap.
Now the Giants are one Marco Scutaro signing away from bringing back every key player from their World Series run. And don’t forget, Pagan’s return also means Shane Victorino is no longer an option. For that alone, Giants fans salute Sabean and the ownership group for getting this deal done.