A Case for Trading Angel Pagan

Good evening, everyone.  The handle is Taryn, but you may know me from my works at such websites as My Summer Family and Metsmerized Online as The Coop.  So please, call me Coop.  I am excited to join the team at Kiner’s Korner and hope that we can engage in some lively debate.

In case you’ve been following Metsopotamia bloggers today, you know that Carlos Beltran had a press conference where he outlined such items as the school he is opening in his home land of Puerto Rico, meeting with Sandy Alderson and in long and short “doing what’s best for the team,” including the idea of moving to a corner outfield position or talking about potential trades.  Being that he has a full no-trade clause, this raises some interesting questions but nonetheless, it is a topic worth discussing at this time.

Carlos Beltran is coming off a half-season which he spent in noticeable decline.  Then again, he was coming back from surgery earlier in the year and it took a while for him to get his proverbial sea legs.  In the past, when we’ve seen him not playing to the best of his abilities, we were apt to find out later that he was operating at about “85%.”  It was clear that, especially after his debut in San Francisco’s AT&T Park in July, he was more operating at a 65-75% level.  If that even matters.  Whether fairly or not, most in the Mets camp pointed to this road trip as the denouement of the Mets 2010 season.  Carlos Beltran, it was assumed, since he returned then was guilty by association.  Let’s not remember, of course, that the Mets started to flounder even prior to his return.  But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Moving right along, the fact is, Beltran is one of those players who Mets fans either love or loathe.  I used to understand the “loathe” part because I was a Beltran denier at one point.  You’d think it had something to do with 2006 and that infamous Adam Wainwright curve.  I never blamed him for that.  I always blamed the inning where Jose Valentin struck out with the bases loaded, but that is neither here nor there.  No, it had more to do with the fact that when he was hurt, he played hurt.  I’m not talking about the Mike Cameron collision in San Diego:  no one thought Beltran coming back from that was a soft move.  In fact, I had utmost respect for him and thought it would endear him to Mets fans.  And we’d hear about it.  If he was operating at less than 100%, it showed and he’d have some sort of story concocted and would not go on the DL for it.  I thought, at that time, it was very selfish since it was evident how it hurt the team.  And maybe it was.  However, it hit me later on that Beltran had to be good.  If he had the strength to bring the team down with him when he was hurt, conversely they operated at an entirely different level when he was 100% healthy.

Now I can’t even call myself a “sympathizer:”  I am a full-on Carlos Beltran fanatic and supporter.  In 2008, I saw that he had something to prove and save Johan Santana, was the only player on that team that I felt did not owe Mets fans an apology for their performance.  In 2009, I was heartbroken because I felt like he could have very well been the NL MVP that season had it not been injury-shortened.  I was also let down when he came back last season: because it was clear he just wanted to PLAY but was still injured; therefore, he should not have come back.

Now that Sandy Alderson is the new General Manager, he is meeting with his more tenured players such as Beltran and Luis Castillo.  Alderson is a smart dude and a keen baseball guy, but I think even he is not a miracle worker who can wave a magic wand and make the payroll magically shrink…and even if he could, we’re going to see some of the repercussions of them for a long time coming.

Carlos Beltran’s contract is an albatross in 2011, there is no question.  He is also one of the best in baseball when he is healthy.  That is an operative term, of course.  I know most will question whether he can stay healthy but I truly believe that he came back too soon in 2010.  This could have been a team misdiagnosis or that he was just too eager to allow him to not play.  That’s not to say it won’t be hard to get rid of him via trade.  It will be tough.

If there is anything, however, that Alderson’s past has taught us is that his strengths lie in evaluating talent.  And in evaluating, I think he is nobody’s fool when it comes to trades.  So I’m not advocating a trade of Beltran now, especially in his walk year.

I am advocating a trade of Angel Pagan.

I am not going to deny being a fan of Pagan.  Who didn’t like the guy this season?  However, as a business woman, I advocate the old adage of buying low and selling high.  And right now, Angel Pagan would be sold at an all-time high.

Let’s take a look at his historical stats.  Prior to 2010, he hadn’t played in more than 88 games since his major league debut in 2006.  He played in 151 games in 2010, with a line of .290/.340/.425 with 11 HRs and 69 RBIs.  Not too shabby, right?  Especially since his best year on paper was in 2009, where he played in 88 games, .306/.350/.487 with 6 HRs and 32 RBIs.

In fact, one of the biggest jokes among Mets followers was the Angel Pagan was hopelessly inept at those danged “fundamentals” we hear so much about.  Like baserunning (something most players are taught in Tee-ball league, but that’s besides the point).   What came first – the chicken or the egg, was always the thought with Pagan.  Was he terrible fundamentally because he didn’t play every day, or was not playing every day detrimental to him becoming a more complete baseball player?

My worries with Pagan are this:  sure, he is young at 28 years old and could theoretically get better in the next few seasons.  He is an outfielder, though, who are incredibly replaceable.  Carlos Beltran, ironically, is one of the few irreplaceable outfielders in the game, mostly due to the fact that he is more a complete player than Pagan.  Beltran gets on base, drives in and scores lots of runs, plus he hits for power as well.  Angel Pagan is a complimentary player who played over his head, and does only a fraction of the things Beltran does.

Sure it would be a gamble to keep Beltran over Pagan at this point.  But it’s a gamble I’d be willing to bet house money on.  Some of it I am sure will deal with money.  Beltran’s contract of $20.071mm isn’t going to look attractive to anyone unless the Mets are willing to eat a significant portion of it.  To that I say: what’s the difference if we keep him or eat the money?  I’d almost rather see him play for us than pay a significant portion of his salary to play someplace else.  (And no, I don’t think that about Luis Castillo or Oliver Perez – I’m suddenly developing an appetite for Benjamin Franklins talking about them).

Angel Pagan on the other hand.  He is arbitration eligible but was paid $1.45mm in 2010.  That is super attractive to a team who could use a platoon guy in right or a full time young centerfielder for some either young bullpen arms (due to the loss of Hisanori Takahashi) or young infielders (like a second baseman who can actually hit AND field).

I get it from Mets fans (my husband included) that they shouldn’t trade Angel Pagan.  Yet, I hear all the time we need to get all the best players and keep all our prospects at the same time.  It’s clear that with this organizational philosophy change, wanting it both ways will no longer be the case.

Strike while the iron is hot, Sandy.  Angel Pagan’s trade value has never been so high.  If lucky, Beltran can get a few not-ready-for-prime-time talent plus the Mets would have to eat a significant portion of his salary to do so.  I wish Pagan luck, I like him as a Met.  But I think I could also like what Alderson & Co would net in return.

Posted by The Coop

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5 responses to “A Case for Trading Angel Pagan

  1. I am so mixed on what the Mets should do with Beltran and Pagan. But Pagan has value, and trading him is a step towards the rebuilding that the team sorely needs. And keeping him with either he or Beltran playing RF keep the illusion that the Mets are going for it next year and have a chance. The only thing about trading Pagan is that they probably will need a Beltran-like CF after 2011, but there’s nothing that says they wouldn’t feel that way even if Pagan were part of the 2011 Mets.

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