The season is still young, so it is way too early to panic about any of your favorite players or teams. However, we can guess what positions could use upgrading based on what we know about a player’s true talent. There are certainly outfield positions that could benefit from some help, and Ángel Pagán could provide a small but important boost.
Pagán’s best years were on the Mets, but he might be best known for his time on the Giants. He was traded to San Francisco before the 2012 season and had a great year. He hit .288/.338/.440 while handling center field and adding significant value on the bases. He was a non-factor offensively that year in the playoffs, but he was arguably the second best position player on a championship team after Buster Posey.
Pagán became a free agent that winter, and the Giants decided to re-sign him to a four-year, $40 million deal despite some red flags. His center field skills were declining, and he was going into his age-31 season. If his defense were to get worse, his bat wasn’t good enough to play everyday in a corner.
Instead, what ended up happening to Pagán was another risk that comes with aging players: injury. He missed roughly half the games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He got off to a great start in the first month of 2015, hitting .350/.373/.447. Then he got his hand accidentally stepped on and was terrible the rest of the year, though it was never reported that he had anything more than a laceration on his finger. His defensive metrics were very poor that year, too, though his knee tendinitis might have had something to do with that. He was one of the worst players in baseball that year with a -1.9 bWAR.
The 2016 season was the last of Pagán’s contract, and even though he missed more time again, he hit a respectable .277/.331/.418 with a career high 12 HR, though that came with some HR/FB luck. This is not another trade retrospective, but it is should be mentioned that even with the low average annual salary, the signing did not work out. The Giants paid $40 million for 1.4 bWAR over four years.
I was really surprised that Pagán was not picked up by anybody this past offseason. Of course I was not expecting him to get a lucrative, multi-year deal to be a team’s everyday outfielder. I just thought that somebody would take a flyer on him to at least be a viable bench bat and defensive replacementt. While there have been quite a few rumors about teams showing interest, they are all based on anonymous sources, so it is hard to tell what to believe.
Pagán could slot in as a team’s fourth outfielder with the ability to spot start in center if need be. A nice thing about him is that he is a true switch-hitter, meaning that his career platoon splits are relatively small. He can be platooned with anybody, if need be.
Let’s take a look at some teams that could benefit from Pagán’s services.
They are off to a terrible start and their best player just hit the DL. I am not going to pretend that Pagán could magically change that. However, José Bautista is injury prone, and one could make the argument that the Jays would be better off in left field with Pagán than Ezequiel Carrera or Steve Pearce.
Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper have had their fair share of injuries over the years, and the Nationals do not really have much depth behind them. The team is strong enough that they can suffer a loss in the outfield and still win the division, but it is best not to take any chances in the game of baseball.
I am surprised that they did not sign Pagán as soon as J.D. Martínez hit the DL. The Tigers have a high ceiling if everything breaks right, but they can’t withstand any setbacks if they want to capture a Wild Card spot. JaCoby Jones and Tyler Collins have been off to good starts, but the regression monster will probably come for them soon. This is the one team with whom Pagán might have the most leverage. Nothing yet, though.
This is one team for which Pagán could be an upgrade as an everyday player. They have nothing in left field. Gerardo Parra is off to a good start, but he is not going to continue to have a .407 BABIP, even in Coors Field.
Nelson Cruz seems to be the full-time DH, so their outfield is a little light. Leonys Martín is a well below average hitter. Mitch Haniger was never considered much of a prospect, though FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan believes he might be a late bloomer. It would be great to have insurance if he is wrong, just in case.
Any non-contending team, especially the Braves
Even if a team is not contending, they still need to field a team. (This is why the Padres signed Jered Weaver, for example.) The Braves’ outfield is full right now with Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis, but we all know how interested this team is in name value in their first year in Sun Trust Park. Kemp is injury prone, so I would not be the least bit surprised if Pagán gets signed if Kemp goes down.
It is really hard to believe that Pagán will remain unsigned. It is likely that some team will get desperate enough or suffer a significant injury, and then come knocking on Pagán’s door. He certainly still has value to offer to a number of teams.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.