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Four Questions About The Angel Pagan Contract

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As we wait to hear if the Giants will employ Marco Scutaro into his fifth decade of existence, let's get right to it. Wait -- stop the presses. As I nearly finish, news comes that the Red Sox will sign Shane Victorino to a 3 year, $38 M contract. Any question about Angel Pagan must be viewed through this lens: He's making fewer dollars per year than Victorino, he's a half year younger than Victorino, and most important, he is not Shane Victorino. OK, now. Questions.

1) Does this mean the Giants are down on Brown (Gary, that is)?

The off-handed comments of the past couple days and quick-sketch reportage would have us believe the answer is yes. Brown's tweet-skills remain as strong and quirky as ever, but he's not projecting to be a sure-fire everyday major-league center fielder. Remember, even when he was tearing up the High-A California League in 2011, the Giants conspicuously refused to promote him. In 2012, he struggled at first in Double-A (where a lot of hitters struggle), but salvaged the season with a strong second half. Best guess right now: His major-league ETA is 2014 with a skill set not unlike a right-handed hitting Gregor Blanco. Brown needs to show occasional pop to keep outfielders honest, and he needs to be a better basestealer. Without those skills, Brownie, thy name is Manny Burriss. So Pagan certainly isn't blocking him for a year or two. If Brown comes on strong, the Giants have shown willingness in the past to emphasize speed and defense, not power, in the outfield. Moving Brown or Pagan to RF could happen. He spent four years at a top college program, so the clock is ticking a bit louder for him than for a kid drafted out of high school.

2) Could this be Aaron Rowand redux?

To refresh: Rowand got five years, $60 M after the 2007 season, even though the Giants had a decent internal option in Randy Winn. It was a disaster. Rowand's pre-Giant offense was inflated by his home ballparks, and the Giants had little idea how badly his game would play at Mays Field. With Pagan, they knew. They know. He can leg out infield hits, and any ball in the gap threatens to be a triple. Not Rowand. Once on base, he's a premium base stealer. Not Rowand. And this time, the internal option was Gregor Blanco. This time, the Giants can more afford to spend unwisely, if that's how Pagan's contract turns out. 

3) Isn't there a danger of viewing this through misty World Series goggles?

His overall numbers for 2012, and indeed for 2009 and 2010, were solid and pretty consistent: He's a .340-ish on-base guy and a mid-.400s slugging guy.  Add to that decent defense and basestealing above 75% -- which makes more palatable his otherwise mediocre on-base percentage for a leadoff hitter -- and you've got a five-win player in two of the past four years, plus a three-win season, and one down year due to injury. During his brief Giant tenure, he's gotten mired in frustrating funks; in late July, he was so bad I was mentally crossing him off the winter's to-do list. It went on for nearly two months. Then he got hot in August. Then he cooled off in the playoffs. All players go through performance oscillations, of course. But the Giants need to hope his health in his mid-30s doesn't deepen the inevitable slumps, or that age doesn't steal a step or two, erase his base-stealing advantage, and turn his occasional bad outfield route into disturbingly frequent misplays.

4) So you're cool with it?

Very cool with it. If the Giants can get solidly above-average work from Pagan in two of the four years, it's probably break even. Three of four years? It's a very good deal. If those three above-average years come close to his peak performance of 2010 or 2012, it's a fantastic contract.


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