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Angel Pagan goes from fringe regular to $40 million player

Dec 3, 2012, 4:47 PM EDT

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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.

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