The magic of the Winter Meetings continued late into the evening on Day Two, with the Mets and Giants agreeing to the first trade of the meetings. The two teams agreed on a swap of center fielders coming off a bad year, with Angel Pagan heading to San Francisco in exchange for Andres Torres as well as reliever Ramon Ramirez.
Pagan joins fellow trade acquisition Melky Cabrera and incumbent Giants Brandon Belt, Nate Schierholtz and Aubrey Huff as outfield options for Bruce Bochy next year. Pagan likely becomes the starting center fielder in San Francisco, which would allow the Giants to play Cabrera in a corner where his talents are best suited. Unless Bruce Bochy remains as committed to benching Belt as he seemed last season, chances are Belt and Huff will somehow be split between first base and left field, with Schierholtz relegated to a fourth outfield spot.
This new arrangement projects to be a massive upgrade over last season, particularly before the acquisition of Carlos Beltran. Among Giants outfielders, only Schierholtz, Cody Ross, and Pat Burrell managed an above-average wRC+ in 2011. As a whole, non-Beltran Giants outfielders were 8.2 runs below average, a big reason why their offense was the most anemic in the National League.
Pagan should help that cause, as even in a down year he well outhit both Torres and Aaron Rowand, San Francisco’s two main center fielders. The duo combined to hit a whopping 17.4 runs below average in 749 plate appearances. Despite a BABIP of .285, 29 points below his career mark, Pagan was effectively average, checking in with +0.8 batting runs. He takes a moderate amount of walks (7.5% career), makes good contact (14.7% strikeout rate career), and has serviceable power (.140 ISO career) — he does more than enough things well for his bat to play in center field. Pagan’s bat should be well above Torres’s regardless of if Pagan rediscovers his singles stroke in San Francisco or not.
The sticking point for San Francisco will be which glove Pagan brings to the bay. Pagan’s defensive numbers plummeted anywhere from 15 runs (DRS) to 38 runs (TotalZone) depending on which metric you prefer. Meanwhile, Torres continued to excel, recording a +9.4 UZR after a +22 season in 2010.
In the Giants’ case, offense is much more of a need than defense — the pitching staff is good enough and grounder-heavy enough (46.4% overall, 4th in MLB) to hide the difference between Pagan and Torres effectively as long as Pagan plays the reasonably decent center field he played prior to 2011. Perhaps the Mets knew something about Pagan that we don’t, but it also seems reasonable enough that they would prefer the multiple years of control of the reclamation project in Torres as well as the addition of the reliever in Ramirez.
The addition of Pagan gives the Giants a real center fielder with a semi-reliable bat, something their roster sorely lacked in 2010. It allows them to play Melky Cabrera at a position more suiting to his glove as well, as the prospect of him sprinting after balls in the cavernous AT&T Park outfield is a gloomy one. Pagan’s acquisition was not a sexy trade by any means, but the Giants added another useful piece towards rebuilding their tattered offense for the 2012 season.
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