One More Year of Pagan, I Can Deal With That

Photo taken by Michael Baron

Most of the news you will read about the New York Mets this off-season will center around the clubs home grown, all-star shortstop Jose Reyes. However, there are other issues — and players — the club has to deal with. Most notable, should the team tender Mike Pelfrey and/or Angel Pagan contracts. While I gave my opinion on what I thought NY should do with Pelfrey last week (which you can read here), today I will offer my opinion on Pagan.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Pagan projects to receive $4.7 million in arbitration this off-season; a raise from the $3.5 million he earned in 2010. The Mets have until December 12th to decide whether or not to tender him a contract or else he will become a free-agent. Considering the amount of frustration Pagan caused Mets fans this past season I’m sure some would not mind seeing that happen.

Angel got his first shot at every day at-bats in June of 2009 when Carlos Beltran hit the DL.  He responded by performing admirably in center field and hitting .306 in 343 at bats.  With Beltran starting the 2010 season on the DL, Pagan took full advantage of the opportunity. #16 took a strangle hold on the starting role over Gary Matthews Jr. while playing at an all-star caliber level. He finished his 2010 campaign  hitting .290 with a .765 OPS in 579 at-bats, collected 49 extra-base hits and swiping 37 bases. Pagan’s maturation as a player had been a pleasant surprise for Mets fans.  While he was not Carlos Beltran, his hustle and all around performance had quickly turned him into a fan favorite.

Well, that was then, and this is now.  The 2011 season, for Pagan, was not all peaches and cream.  In 123 games, the 30-year-old outfielder hit a pedestrian .262 while, not only regressing defensively, but making numerous amounts of mistakes on the base paths; leaving many Mets fans hoping the Metsecutives will not tender him a contract for 2012:

 

In a post to ESPN New York, Adam Rubin suggests the Mets may cut ties with center fielder:

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey and center fielder Angel Pagan both remain under the team’s control through the 2013 season, but only Pelfrey may be back with the Mets. Both are eligible for arbitration and would command near-automatic raises. The Mets appear willing to bite the bullet on a raise for Pelfrey from his $3.925 million salary in 2011, but Pagan — who earned $3.5 million — looks like a goner, either via trade or getting cut loose if it comes to it. The Mets likely will be shopping for a center fielder from outside the organization.”

Photo taken by Michael Baron

While this may be true, in scouring the available free-agent center fielders, I don’t believe this is the right move.  The names I hear most being tossed around the most upon Mets fans as possible replacements, is Grady Sizemore, David DeJesus and Coco Crisp.  Sizemore — to me — is intriguing.  Although the talent is surely there, he comes with a ton of injury risk.  Risk, that I don’t believe the Mets should invest in. I agree with Ted Berg, who stated the following in his post “Compelling Arguments for Non-Tendering Angel Pagan:”

Grady Sizemore has not been better than Angel Pagan since 2008, when he was awesome. Sizemore is a year younger than Pagan but he gets hurt constantly. He played only 33 games in 2010 and 71 in 2011, and he played poorly in both seasons. If he can ever regain his awesome form, he will again be awesome (obviously). But it doesn’t appear likely he will.”

Crisp and DeJesus, while both good players, do not posses the potential — in my opinion — of Pagan. And, both players are two years his senior.

While his 2011 season was disappointing to say the least, he consistently got the big hit; as he did during his breakout campaign in 2010 (.339 with 54 runs batted in with runners in scoring position).  The switch hitting center fielder batter .293 with runners in scoring position and was an impressive 21 for 70 (.300) with 24 runs batted in with two outs and runners in scoring position in 2011.

So, while Pagan may not be the long term solution for the Mets in center field, he is — in my opinion — the best option for the club in 2012. The way I see it, I would rather take a shot on Pagan regaining his 2010 form than signing any of the available free-agent center fielders. And, if he does not regain that form, the search for a center fielder can then begin with a free agent class that could include Michael Bourn, Matt Kemp, B.J. Upton and dare I say it, Shane Victorino.

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