I’d like to take a second to welcome Julian Levine to Bay City Ball. You may know Julian from his work at Beyond the Box Score and his Giants blog, Giants Nirvana. You can find him on Twittter @GiantsNirvana. Julian’s first post on the blog details the newly announced Angel Pagan deal. Everyone be sure to make Julian feel welcome in the comments section below.
Earlier today, the Giants locked up Angel Pagan for the next four years, committing $40M to the switch-hitting centerfielder. The money breaks down as follows: a $5M signing bonus, $7M in 2013, $9M in each of the following two seasons, and $10M in the final year of the contract. In other words, even if he tails off considerably over the next few seasons, he won’t be a serious hindrance to the team’s payroll flexibility.
Initially, I wasn’t thrilled about the deal. Pagan turns 32 in July, and UZR be damned, his defense is a major concern for me. As his speed begins to fade, he’ll no longer be able to make up for poor reads and routes in centerfield, of which he had quite a lot in 2012. And four years, in general, is a long time. I have serious doubts about where Pagan will be in his mid-30s.
Upon reflection, though, I can definitely get behind this deal.
A few considerations:
* Pagan is probably better than you think. He’s an elite baserunner, decent enough with the glove (for now, at least) and he’s been solidly above average with the bat over the past several seasons (108 wRC+ spanning 2200 plate appearances from 2009 to 2012). In fact, dating back to 2009, Pagan has averaged nearly four wins per 600 plate appearances. The odds of him putting up average-or-better numbers for a few more seasons look pretty good.
* Gary Brown is the future in centerfield, or perhaps not. At some point, it appeared as though Brown would eventually be ready to take over the starting job in center by 2013, but he had some hiccups in AA-Richmond this past season, and that, coupled with his age — he just turned 24 a couple months ago, raises a lot of questions. So yeah, maybe Brown is the future in center, or maybe he isn’t. In general, I think it’s a good policy not to let the existence of a prospect such as Brown dictate present team-building. The Giants can address that issue, if it becomes an issue, at a later point — and for what it’s worth, Pagan’s contract should be movable if it comes to that.
* The other options weren’t great. Michael Bourn, as I understand it, was out of the Giants’ price range. B.J. Upton was intriguing, but he’s not without red flags, and given the 5/$75M price tag, I can’t blame the Giants for looking elsewhere. And Shane Victorino is a) Shane Victorino, and b) starting to look like a platoon bat, which kind of defeats the purpose of his being a switch hitter. Had the Giants decided to go with Gregor Blanco in centerfield, they’d have presumably used the Pagan money to address left field, where there’s not much out there beyond Nick Swisher and Josh Hamilton (who, for that matter, was also out of the Giants’ price range).
In light of these facts, I think the Giants did pretty well with the Pagan deal. The money’s reasonable, was probably spent where it made the most sense to spend it, and it simply makes the Giants better in the short term without crippling them in the long term.