San Francisco Giants:What If Pagan Wants To Play Center?
By Gary Oversen
After the acquisition of Denard Span, it is assumed that he will become the lead off hitter and center fielder. Angel Pagan should be fine with the first change, but what if he isn’t okay with the second?
It’s not as if the San Francisco Giants and the front office doesn’t understand the dynamic of shifting a position player in the twilight of their career. No matter what the player might say, it is not just an easy “take it for the team”.
There are financial reasons for not switching, and agents don’t tend to have the same loyalty to a team that a player develops. So if you are looking for Angel Pagan agent to be extremely happy about a move to left field, you’d be mistaken.
Yes, it does increase the perceived versatility of Pagan, but what center fielder wouldn’t defensively convert to a corner spot well? If you are a average to above-average center fielder, you will generally be a even better defensively on the corners.
But the downside is that once you are successful in left, it increases the chances that you stay there the rest of your career. Is Pagan ready for that?
Now this isn’t to say that the Giants are at fault in any way when they added Denard Span. They upgraded at a reasonable price, and took care of a future issue before they “had to”. (Because when you have to, you tend to overpay.)
No matter what type of fan you are, Pagan’s play on the field has been very good. He also has a huge fan-base, that will be sad to see him go. But at some point, there will be a break-up. And it could come sooner rather than later.
What happens next will determine the direction of the team leading up to spring training.
The center field job and lead-off spot are Span’s, let’s get that out of the way. He is the type of player that the Giants have had success with in the past. Quality individual, tireless worker, and a good teammate.
Without putting too much into it, the injury question must quickly be addressed. Span is coming off a season in which he played 61 games. But he played in an average of 142 games the three seasons before that. The Giants are a team who will do their due diligence in reading any medical reports that are supplied to them. Span passed his physical, deal done.
That is the extent of analysis I have for his “injury history”. I trust that the team isn’t going to go out and spend that money and risk disrupting the chemistry of the team if they didn’t do their homework. So without being able to tell the future, injuries are not a part of this discussion. Everybody’s healthy, including Pagan.
So now Pagan is looking at a likely shift to the left, to the left (little Beyonce reference there). And he, and his agent must decide to go for another ring in San Francisco, quietly ask for a trade, or become a clubhouse nuisance and produce a lot of off-field news.
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My guess at this point is the first one, but number two doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
If Pagan wants to continue to play center, and lead-off for another team going into his free agent year, there are some teams that may be interested. Teams who were interested in Span but didn’t want to commit long-term may want a player with less time on the contract. With one year remaining on his contract, the team getting Pagan would be getting someone playing for one more decent contract, which is why the Giants would be better off if he decided to stay and play nice.
But if Pagan does want to leave, his salary for 2016 ($10 million) would also be gone. (Well maybe they have to eat a little bit.) And with Span’s deal heavily backloaded ($3 million base this year, and then $9 million the following two years) it is conceivable that the Giants can financially re-enter the market in left field.
And the longer the off-season goes, the likelihood of finding a player willing to take a shorter contract increases. Would you be excited about a Justin Upton-Span-Hunter Pence outfield? If Pagan and his agent decide that a move is better, it still could happen. Bruce Bochy would not confirm Span in center field, saying that he needed to discuss the situation with Pagan before finalizing that. But the writing is definitely on the wall on the fair side of the kale plants.
And if the team and the current player decide that it is best to move on, as the Golden State Warriors did with David Lee, there could be a silver lining to losing a quality player and individual.
They will have turned back the clock a couple years age-wise (Span is 31, Pagan 34), while improving the defense in center. And if they were to work out a short deal for a player like Upton, they would have improved the middle of the order as well.
But if Pagan embraces the move, the Giants would have a outstanding defensive outfield. And the focus on pitching, speed, and defense plays well at AT&T Park.