Angel Pagan just signed with the San Francisco Giants. $40 million for four years might seem like a slight overpay in terms of years, but this is obviously a team trying to win now, and they did just make a little extra coin that they can spend in order to stay competitive.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Similar justifications were probably made when Aubrey Huff helped power the Giants to their first World Series title and was subsequently signed to an ill-fated deal. This is Angel Pagan, though. Not Aubrey Huff.
In the year before the year the Giants won their first title, Huff was worse than replacement. He then put up six wins on the way to a title, and was rewarded with a contract. In the year before the year the Giants won their second title, Pagan was just a smidge above replacement. He then put up five wins on the way to a title, and was rewarded with a contract.
The similarities end there.
Pagan turns 32 next season, Huff was 34 in 2011. Pagan plays a premium up-the-middle defensive position basically to a scratch level, Huff finished his career worse than scratch with the glove at first base. Most importantly, there were key indicators that suggested that Huff’s 2010 was out of line with his career work, and those indicators are mostly absent when it comes to Pagan. Here are some of Pagan’s key numbers for last season, compared to his career:
Pretty close, right? Huff, in 2010, showed a walk rate that hit double digits for the first time in his career, at age 33. His speed score was above average for the only time in his career. And though the decline may not have been obvious through all the oscillation, if you looked at his career as a whole and ignored the seasons, he was obviously on his way down.
Pagan is going to decline through his contract. He’s 31 now, it happens. And it’s not like there aren’t any numbers that were slightly outside of his norm last season — his isolated slugging percentage in 2012 was higher than it had been in a full season. He’s got faults, too. His routes in center field leave him short of scratch defensively in center field, and sometimes he makes mistakes on the basepaths. He’s still a valuable defender — 2011 looks like the outlier when it comes to defensive metrics — and he still adds value while running the bases.
The contract is so reasonable that he’d have to fall off in Huff-ian fashion not to make it a good one. $40 million over four years is paying him like he’s basically a two and a half win player (assuming $5.5 million per win and inflation). As long as he hits a few doubles, steals some bases, and plays scratch-ish defense in center field, Pagan should be able to manage that easily. This is all assuming his knees look better at the end of this contract than Huff’s did. Those two years make all the difference in that respect.