(Bumped from FanPosts. --Eric)
One of Omar Minaya's best trades- an area we all know he wasn't very savvy at- was a pretty unheralded one at the time. On January 5th 2008- two years to the date before Omar signed a certain knuckleball pitcher- Omar Minaya sent Minor Leaguers Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers (both are out of baseball, and never made it to the Major Leagues) to the Chicago Cubs, and GM Jim Hendry sent back Pagan. Since then, Pagan has played as a part-time and full-time player, in Right Field and most recently in centerfield.
Pagan, who was solid in the 88 games he played in 2009, had a career year in 2010. He put up excellent offensive numbers and excellent defensive numbers, all in a premium position. While it would be hard to repeat, Pagan seems to have fallen off a cliff, offensively and defensively, in 2011. At the plate, Pagan is hitting .263/.318/.379, which is not as good as his 2010 slash line of .290/.340/.425. It is by no means horrible, however. In the field, Pagan is a mess. In 2010, his UZR was 9.0 in 792.1 innings in centerfield. In 2011, his UZR is -12.8 in 994.0 innings in centerfield. Pagan, who is making $3.5 million dollars, is due for an arbitration raise. Either via an arbitration hearing, or avoiding arbitration by accepting a contract by the Mets, Pagan is going to get a raise, likely around the $5 million dollar mark. Because of his decline in production, there have been some rumblings around the fanbase that Pagan should not be tendered a contract, and that the Mets should look elsewhere for a centerfielder. Would non-tendering Crazy Horse make sense?
If you're Drew Barrymore from 50 First Dates, and have a hippocampus disorder, maybe it would. But, most people think a little further ahead than ‘in the moment', and would quickly realize that non-tendering Angel Pagan packing would be, at best, a bad move. Simply jettisoning a player who has some value isn't shrewd baseball thinking, period.
Detractors of Pagan who want to see someone else roaming centerfield are quick to point out that Pagan's bat is quieter this season, as opposed to last. While this is true, when looked at in context of his BABIP, it makes complete sense. In 2010, when he hit .290/.340/.425, Angel had a .331, about .015 points higher than his career average (.314). This season, Pagan is hitting .263.318.379, and possesses a .285 BABIP, about .30 points lower than his career average. So, in reality, Pagan's bat isn't any less potent than it was in 2010, if viewed in a vacuum. He's simply suffering from some bad luck, which looks more apparent coming right after a season where he had a lot of good luck. If his 2011 batting line were adjusted to reflect a .314 BABIP, they'd be almost the same as his 2010 numbers.
Even more than his bat, those who want Pagan gone point out that his defense this season is putrid- and, they'd be right. Pagan, who has always been a good outfielder, is having the worse season of his career in the outfield. He isn't getting good jumps on balls, is bobbling/dropping balls at an alarming number, and has committed numerous throwing errors all season. It is important to look at his defensive deficiencies in context, however. This is his first real poor season in the outfield. Prior to this season, he has in his resume two very strong consecutive defensive seasons, in 2009 and 2010. So, for now, 2011 is the exception to the rule, not the rule. As a starting player (2009-Present), he has two good defensive seasons, and one bad one. A student who receives two 90s on a test, and then a 65, doesn't suddenly become a poor student. Likewise, Angel Pagan is not yet a bad defensive player. He's having a poor season in the outfield, but this season is an outlier, so far. Pagan needs to have another poor season in the outfield before it makes sense to think otherwise.
Related to his poor outfielding is a common baseball trope heard around the fanbase- Pagan's poor baserunning. In 2010, Angel was picked-off or caught-stealing nine times. This season, it's happened six times. Sometimes, he gets too aggressive on the base paths at times, and gets thrown out as a result. Other times, he's too timid on the base paths, and forgoes the opportunity to take an extra base, which sometimes come back to hurt the team. While Pagan isn't perfect- no player except maybe R.A. Dickey is- his lack of baserunning acumen and mental mistakes are blown way out of proportion by subjective memories and confirmation bias. Errors and miscues on the basepaths, like all other stats, are quantifiable. Fangraphs' WAR formula takes into account a player's baserunning abilities, assigning them a Bsr Value, baserunning runs above average value. In 2010, Pagan was 4.7 baserunning runs above average. This season, he's been worth 2.0. So, what does this mean? It means that Pagan has been a good baserunner, this season and last- his miscues on the basepaths included. How is this possible? Two ways: Either his baserunning mistakes have never been as bad, or as numerous as people generally say and believe, or that despite making a plethora of baserunning gaffes, he's gone above and beyond when he's not making mistakes, negating the poor baserunning.
The biggest problem I've noticed people who support non-tendering Crazy Horse have is that most are unable to name an heir who is not generally inferior to him. When somebody says, "Anybody, it doesn't matter. Anybody is better than Pagan", I personally think they're subconsciously in denial, because they can't select anyone who would be a good replacement for Pagan- even the bad Pagan we've seen this season. In our Minor Leagues, we don't have anyone who can fill in for Angel immediately. Fernando Martinez doesn't seem cut out to play centerfield any longer, because of the toll various injuries have taken on his body. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is currently recovering from the injury that ended his 2011 season, and won't be ready when the 2012 season rolls around. Matt Den Dekker is still too young, and still has a long way to go before he is ready to contribute at the Major League level. Ignoring theoretical trade possibilities- Amazin' Avenue AAOP entry realistic and WFAN caller unrealistic ones- a free agent must be signed to replace Angel. The following list is all of the MLB centerfield free agents for this upcoming off-season who have at least 150 innings at the position in the past two years:
|Name||2010 CF Inn||2011 CF Inn||2010 Batting||2011 Batting||2010 BABIP||2011 BABIP||2010 HRs||2011 HRs||2010 SBs||2011 SBs||2010 wOBA||2011 wOBA|
|Name||2010Errors||2011 Errors||2010CF UZR||2011CF UZR||2010 fWAR||2011 fWAR|
Of all of these players, which ones are definite upgrades over Pagan? And, making matters worse, would it be cost-effective to sign any players who might be definite upgrades over Pagan? Take Carlos Beltran, for example. He's had a very successful season, and has been a historically good player. He would be an upgrade over Angel offensively (and possibly defensively, though unlikely), but would/could the Mets sign him, given he'll likely make $10 million dollars or more on the free agent market. A guy like Coco Crisp, he's just about as good as Pagan, but is going to make a lot more money than the $5 million dollars or so Angel is going to make, and will be under contract for a much longer time that Angel would be. A guy like Grady Sizemore (if the Indians chose to not bring him back for next season) was once upon a time one of the best players- let alone centerfielders- in the MLB. Various medical issues have turned him into a shell of his former self, from an elite, 6.0+ WAR talent to a player who is barely replacement level. Would it be a shrewd move to take a gamble on Sizemore (if he is available), and see if he can be the kind of player he was three years ago- or even a shadow of his former glory?
The end result, at the end of the day, is that the Mets are in no rush to do anything. With the way our division looks, a lot would have to go right for the Mets, and a lot wrong with the Phillies and Braves, to have a shot sniffing at the Wild Card. Crazy Horse having a good or bad season isn't going to make or break the club. As such, there's no reason to sell low on Angel. There's no reason to rush to non-tender him, to save the $5 million dollars he's worth to begin with. If Pagan has another poor season in 2012, then I think a case can definitely be made that the Mets would be better off going in a different direction. But, he has an entire season or so to show us that his down 2011 season was a fluke, an exception to the rule, and not the new rule going forward. Just like a stockbroker wouldn't sell low on a stock that has the very likely potential to rebound to some degree, neither would it make sense for Sandy Alderson to prematurely sever ties with Angel Pagan this winter.