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Angel Pagan goes from fringe regular to $40 million player

Dec 3, 2012, 4:47 PM EDT

Angel Pagan Getty Images

The Mets were strongly considering non-tendering Angel Pagan rather than pay him $5 million or so for 2012. Instead, they found a taker for him in the Giants, who sent back fellow center fielder Andres Torres and right-hander Ramon Ramirez. It proved to be a great deal for San Francisco, as Pagan proved key in the leadoff spot for the world champs. Meanwhile, the two players the Mets got in return aren’t expected back for 2013.

Pagan will be back with the Giants, of course, courtesy of the new four-year, $40 million deal he agreed to Monday. The 31-year-old’s annual salary will slightly top the $9.8 million he’s made the last three years combined.

For 2013, it seems like a worthy price. Pagan’s .288/.338/.440 line from last season matches up quite well with what he did in 2009 and ’10 before a disappointing 2011 campaign. Plus, Pagan is a fine center fielder, just a bit short of Gold Glove quality. He is a $10 million player right now.

On the other hand, it’s not at all likely that he’ll still be a $10 million player by the time 2015 and ’16 come around. At 31, Pagan should be just wrapping up his prime years now.

According to Baseball Reference, the 10 players most similar to Pagan through age 30 are Felix Jose, Roy Weatherly, Gene Moore, Alex Ochoa, Chris Singleton, Lee Maye, Johnny Grubb, Mitch Webster, Al Zarilla and Irv Noren.

Not one guy from that list was a quality regular from age 31 onwards. Grubb played eight more years and Maye and Webster lasted six more, but they were part-timers. Ochoa was all done in the majors by that age. The other nine averaged 1.7 WAR for the rest of their careers after age 31.

Perhaps that’s not the best list, though. How about this one. Pagan is one of 17 center fielders to post OPSs between .720-.780, hit fewer than 50 homers and steal more than 50 bases from ages 28-30 (Pagan had a .749 OPS, 26 HR and 98 SB from 28-30). Here’s how that group did from 31 onwards:

Matty Alou: .300/.339/.372, 100 OPS+ in 2,400 AB
Marvin Benard: .247/.290/.356, 71 OPS+ in 194 AB
Willie Davis: .288/.316/.425, 109 OPS+ in 3,534 AB
Steve Finley: .267/.333/.471, 106 OPS+ in 6,033 AB
Doug Glanville: .246/.281/.329, 60 OPS+ in 830 AB
Marquis Grissom: .264/.303/.416, 86 OPS+ in 3,817 AB
Ken Landreaux: .239/.295/.348, 78 OPS+ in 465 AB
Brian McRae: .218/.327/.360, 75 OPS+ in 403 AB
Amos Otis: .275/.339/.422, 109 OPS+ in 2,757 AB
Dode Paskert: .260/.340/.365, 107 OPS+ in 3,644 AB
Mickey Rivers: .304/.328/.392, 103 OPS+ in 1,719 AB
Burt Shotten: .260/.353/.320, 104 OPS+ in 2,045 AB
Roy Thomas: .265/.379/.319, 116 OPS+ in 2,266 AB
Milt Thompson: .256/.327/.359, 88 OPS+ in 1,731 AB
Cesar Tovar: .267/.329/.339, 93 OPS+ in 1,975 AB
Devon White: .272/.331/.435, 100 OPS+ in 3,232 AB

Now that’s a better list. I probably could have thrown out Thomas, Paskert and Shotton, all of whom played in the deadball era, but of the remaining 13, there are seven guys who remained pretty productive, depending on what you want your cutoff there to be. The Giants would certainly be pleased if Pagan aged like White.

Regardless, it may be worth paying Pagan $10 million to be a fourth or fifth outfielder in 2016 if he comes through again in 2013. Better if this contract had been a three-year deal, but at least he’s not overpaid immediately.

  1. dcfan4life - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    $10 million a year is not a lot for Pagan even if he slips a little off his production. His defense may suffer due to his age, at the end of this contract hed be 35, and i cant think of anyone who was in their mid 30s and mentioned as a gold glove caliber center fielder.

    • khwva - Dec 3, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      Jim Edmonds. He won 6 consecutive Gold Gloves from 2000-2005 at the age range of 30-35. And won a Silver Slugger award in 2004. Not that Pagan is Edmonds. But the certainty of declining defensive ability is not absolute. Edmonds won just two other GGs (’97, ’98) before that six year run.

  2. proudlycanadian - Dec 3, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    Cheers to the underdog!

    • ezthinking - Dec 3, 2012 at 8:36 PM

      If by payroll you’re crazy, 8th biggest payroll in MLB. If you mean a marginal players getting overpaid, you’re right on point.

  3. APBA Guy - Dec 3, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    So Upton at $ 15M/5 and Pagan at $10M/4. Somewhere in between is Victorino, I think.

    • whitlockd - Dec 3, 2012 at 7:02 PM

      “Shane, we’d like to make you an offer. How does 4.5 years sound?”

  4. seeingwhatsticks - Dec 3, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    I appreciate your analysis Matthew but it seems like almost every post about a signing includes some variation of “he’s going to regress, they overpaid.” That may be true in many cases but that’s the price of free agency. Plus I think it’s one thing to say the deal was a mistake and another thing to come up with some sort of viable alternative. The Giants are trying to win now, so getting a lesser player in 2013 in an effort to save a little money 3-4 years from now doesn’t really fit with their plans. I’d imagine the Giants are looking at this more like a 3 year $36-$40 million deal with the idea that if Pagan isn’t productive in the final year of the deal they can buy him out or eat most of the salary and trade him somewhere. As far as the defense is concerned it’s pretty likely that in the next 2 years Pagan is moved to LF while Gary Brown takes over CF, which would negate any defensive decline Pagan experiences before the end of this contract. Is it an ideal contract? Probably not. Did they dramatically over pay when there were cheaper options available that would provide similar levels of production? I don’t really see the alternatives considering Upton got more, Bourn seems to want more, and Victorino isn’t exactly coming off a great year.

    • ezthinking - Dec 3, 2012 at 8:22 PM

      Except that Pagan doesn’t have the offense to play left field now or in the future. He is not a great centerfielder, rather average at best. While salaries will travel upward, the Giants’ problems all center around a lack of offense. Pagan will not help next year or the following three. It’s a Rowand contract, pure and simple.

      The Giants bitched about not having the dough to get the offense and sat Rowand and Zito (while still winning the WS I know), but aside from the up-and-down Bumgardner, where’s the pitching to save their ass after this season? Another $10 mil wasted on Pagan with Timmy at 22.25, Cain 20.8, and Zito with another 20 this year and 7 next, and Posey needs dough, when will the offense be addressed? One pitching injury and this team is toast. One offense injury and the team is toast – see 2011 with Posey.

      With a nearly paid off stadium (mostly private $$) and the cash out from the Oakland situation, when will the team pay to stay on top? Or will they just sell it off?

      • seeingwhatsticks - Dec 3, 2012 at 9:36 PM

        That’s got to be one of the least informed comments ever. The up and down “Bumgardner?” He basically has struggled for a month in his professional career and he’s 23, with 2 full seasons under his belt and 2 rings. Oh and he’s left handed, doesn’t walk anyone, and is signed to an extremely team friendly deal until like 2017. The Giants seemed to do pretty well with Lincecum having the worst season of his career and Zito being at least passable (and actually very good in the playoffs).

        Here’s the thing with the Giants and offense: Pagan is not a traditional corner OF in the sense that he has a ton of power. But the Giants play in a ballpark that saps power, particularly for LH hitters, and waiting for the 3 run HR is really not the way they play. Pagan is not an ideal corner OF for a lot of teams but because of the way he plays defense (admittedly he’s not an elite CF but he covers ground and has a decent arm and would be well above average in LF or RF), uses the gaps to hit for extra bases, and steals bases, he fits into the style they play and the ballpark they play in extremely well when used at the top of the lineup.

        The Giants aren’t a team that’s going to blow people away with power and instead have focused on building a team with individuals that don’t take anything off the table. With the exception of Posey and Sandoval everyone on the team can at least run well enough to go 1st to 3rd on a single or score from 1B on a double. They’re at least average defensively at every position and above average at C, SS, 1B, and LF (assuming Blanco plays there regularly). They went through the playoffs by pitching well, scoring enough, and not beating themselves either on the bases or in the field. The rotation is still strong whether Lincecum bounces back or not, the bullpen is still deep even without Wilson, and the lineup right now is probably league average or slightly above in terms of runs scored. Is pitching and defense a recipe for repeated postseason success when you don’t hit for a ton of power? I don’t know for sure but that formula seemed to work out pretty well for the Yankees in the late 90’s.

        (I’m not saying the Giants are in the midst of late 90’s Yankee level run of success, just that people forget those teams weren’t stacked with 35-40 HR sluggers and instead relied on pitching, defense, and limiting mistakes)

      • ezthinking - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:03 PM

        Thanks Brian – I mean seeingwhatsticks, I didn’t see it that way.

        Oh wait, I didn’t say anything about power so the late-90’s Yankees don’t have anything to do with anything – least of all their top 10 runs scored figure every season.

        Ignore the salute and look at the stats – Pagan’s essentially played 5 full seasons spread over 7 years in MLB while averaging .280/.333/.420 and 20 SB which is a touch better than a “replacement player” offensive stats and his defense is the same. He’s 31 and not getting better. He looked overmatched in the World Series, 2 for 4 in game 1 then 0-12 with 4K’s and terrible routes on flyballs. He has been a head case for the Cubs and Mets and is the same for the Giants.

        If you’re going to overpay, pay for a potentially great player, not one that maxes out at 95 R 8 HR 56 RBI and 29 SB. Juan Pierre could have filled your lead off spot better and for peanuts and then get a real hitter for the middle of the lineup.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:19 PM

        And who does that “real hitter” replace? Posey? Yeah, that guy’s not a real hitter. Sandoval? Even though he’s been hurt the last 2 years, he’s not a real hitter either. Pence? Belt? Going to find a slugging SS somewhere? You could replace Blanco in LF with Hamilton I guess, although Hamilton will want a bigger and longer contract than Pagan and is unlikely to actually want to come to SF. Other than that any upgrade is likely to cost prospects and the Giants don’t have many to spare right now.

        Like I said, it’s one thing to disagree with a deal or say a guy is being overpaid or will regress and it’s something totally different to actually come up with a better solution. Juan Pierre’s OPS has been over .750 twice in his career (most recently in 2004). Pagan has been over .750 3 of the last 4 years. And Pierre’s also 3 years older than Pagan. I actually think Blanco is a better player right now than Pierre, though I’ll concede it’s close and I wouldn’t argue too much if you said Pierre was better.

        The only point I was trying to make with the Yankee comparison is that big name sluggers don’t automatically equal quality offense or winning games if the trade off is that you can’t pitch, play defense, or run the basis. The Giants, in large part due to the park they play in, have emphasized all those traits ahead of power and it’s working out pretty well for them.

      • ezthinking - Dec 4, 2012 at 1:07 AM

        Just because there is a scarcity doesn’t mean you over pay. Pence, Belt, not good. Blanco awful, bring up the boys from AAA. Posey can’t/won’t continue to catch. Why don’t the Giants lock him up like his near contemporaries Longoria/Braun/Tulo/Votto or even a J. Upton?

        Could lock him up like Mauer. $23 mil for an injured catcher is a bad deal on a small market team (even though the ownership is nearly the richest in MLB) so why isn’t Posey paid? Either he isn’t tied to the team, wants huge $$, the team doesn’t think he can pay out over the contract or the team thinks they can get more $$ by trading him in two years.

        He already helped get two rings for the team while getting MLB peanuts. That has a way of pissing a guy off. Pagan’s money should go to Posey if anyone. They missed the window to deal Timmy, he’s gone after this year. So now you have Cain, Bum, Pablo, and Pagan as your “core” and stringing out Posey on Arb numbers for the next 3 years.

        Timmy shows the value on year-to-year arb numbers – even with his previous 2 year deal. Posey has the hardware to set arb records for a position player. Until the Giants cut ties with the one-year-wonders and lock up the pre-arb guys (like they did with Bum) for the right dough, they will ride the wave to the bottom of the NL West behind the big $$ Dodgers, soon to be big $$ Padres. AZ and the Rockies won’t be going away either.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Dec 4, 2012 at 2:20 AM

        Posey hasn’t been paid yet because the team still has 4 or 5 years of control. They’ve said they’d like to work something out but that Pagan and Scutaro are higher priorities at the moment. There’s no way they let him get away any time soon.

        Who are these magical AAA players you speak of that are ready to replace guys like Belt and Blanco and Pence? I agree all 3 players have flaws but you started this by saying $10 million was too much to spend on Pagan, so how much do you think upgrades in RF and 1B would cost? And who are these players you’d replace them with? Pence wants a longterm deal but the Giants are going with his last year of arbitration for now because they don’t want to overpay a guy who struggled down the stretch and into the playoffs. His track record suggests he will be better but if he’s not they can move on in 2014. There aren’t players on the FA market that would upgrade RF or 1B, and Blanco is a cheap option that serves the Giants needs in LF. The only way to upgrade 1B and RF would be via trade, and as I mentioned before the Giants don’t have many blue chip prospects (and they need the best ones they have to replace Lincecum and Zito in the next 2 years).

        The Giants are slipping behind the big money Dodgers and the future big money Padres? You’re kidding right? Dodgers will probably be better but for now they are a collection of talented yet fragile players with a thin and overpaid pitching staff. And I seriously have no idea where you’re getting the future big money Padres thing from. San Francisco is a much bigger market than San Diego and the Giants own 30% of their broadcast partner so I can’t imagine a TV deal that the Padres could ever sign that would be worth more than what the Giants will get from TV revenues. You clearly don’t know a lot about any of the teams in the NL West.

  5. SOBEIT - Dec 3, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Breaking down the contract…

    $5M signing bonus
    $7M 2013
    $9/$9/$10 into 2015.

    So technically $10M a year, but it keeps his value in check with most for his level of production last year. He is a speed guy we need on base in the leadoff spot and we could move him to the corner OF spots eventually. Just hope he continues with his hit streak now that he will be the starting day leadoff guy. The drop off in his performance after his hot start to the season came when he was primarily in the 5th spot…if memory serves me well.

    Glad to have him back and looking forward to Scutaro coming back as well…hopefully. Then all we need are more bullpen arms and a good draft to pick up some starting pitchers for the future. With Lincecum not signed long term and Vogelsong on the wrong side of 30, and Zito coming towards the end of his contract…the starting pitching will need some new life in a couple years.

  6. cosanostra71 - Dec 3, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    Marvin Bernard!

    • ezthinking - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:08 PM

      Sweet part is he was one of the confirmed steroid users, he of 54 HR in 891 games. Must have got the bad shit…or maybe the shit just doesn’t work like Bob Costas thinks it does.

      • cosanostra71 - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:13 PM

        I just always liked the name Marvin.

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