Angel Pagan might have been the Mets' first-half MVP in 2010, hitting for average, reaching base regularly, stealing bases once there, and effortlessly blanketing Citi's expansive outfield between the lumbering oafs on either side of him. Yesterday he signed a $3.5 million contract for 2011, and in so doing he avoided the often contentious salary arbitration process.
Now that the Mets have finalized all of their contracts for next year, so begins the period of open conjecture and rosterbation about positional battles, lineup construction, and everything else that spring training season incites among the frost-bitten, baseball-starved masses. One such question pertains to the respective occupants of center and right field or, more specifically, the orientation of those occupants. We know Pagan and Carlos Beltran will be involved, but we don't yet know if Beltran's wonky knee will force him to cede center field to Pagan, who is doubtless the superior defender at this point.
To Pagan's credit, he said today that he doesn't much care where he plays.
"I talked to [manager] Terry [Collins] and he said he wanted to sit down with me and Carlos and decide [on who starts in center and who starts in right] before spring training is over and see what is gonna happen," Pagan said. "But whatever does happen is for the best of the team, so I’m happy with that."
"We’ve never touched base on [positions] because that’s a situation that we have to discuss in spring training, according to how he feels. I can tell you that right now he’s feeling pretty healthy. He’s close to 100 percent, but that’s the decision of the team whether I’m going to play center or he’s going to play center. I think I’m ready for any opportunity. I just want to get to spring training and play baseball. It doesn’t matter where that is."
To what extent Pagan's superiority in center is offset by Beltran's unfamiliarity with right field is unclear. In other words, Pagan's advantage over Beltran in right might even exceed his advantage in center because of whatever learning curve Beltran must negotiate before he can field the new position comfortably.