Angel Pagan has officially signed on to remain with the San Francisco Giants after a brief foray into free agency that yielded no other suitors who were mentioned as serious threats to take the outfielder away from the bay area. Pagan’s new contract is a four-year pact that will reportedly pay him a total of $40 million. Pagan turned 31 over the summer, so he’ll be wearing black and orange at least until after he turns 35. Well, unless the Giants change their color scheme or something.
Pagan’s name often gets brought up in stathead circles as one of the most underrated players in baseball, and it’s not hard to see why. The things that Pagan does extremely well are things that are much more difficult to notice if you don’t watch him on a day-to-day basis. The UZR and base running data over at FanGraphs has consistently praised Pagan’s work in those departments; the sample sizes are actually large enough that we’re inclined to believe them even with a much different outcome in 2011. As a result, Pagan has been worth roughly 14 WAR over the past four seasons, and that’s with his rough ’11 campaign taken into consideration.
It’s almost certainly true that Pagan is a bit of an unheralded gem, but is he worth the $40 million the Giants will be paying him or are we looking at a fun-sized Aaron Roward-type mistake? Aside from his glove and base running proficiency, let it be known that Pagan is plenty adequate with the bat as well. The San Francisco center fielder posted a respectable .334 wOBA in 2012, and he matched that number two years prior as a Met. Since becoming a regular player, it seems like that’s about what we should safely expect from Pagan at least for the next couple of seasons. In center field, that number will work just fine, especially considering all of the other positives he brings to the table. Pagan also comes with the added bonus of posting walk rates that are around average, so he isn’t completely dependent on speed or anything like that.
I’m not necessarily all that comfortable with giving Pagan a four-year deal, but the average annual value is just fine given his skill set. He’ll play a quality center field, he’ll steal bases at a high success rate, and he’ll do enough at the plate to make himself above average. This mix of defense, base running, and solid-enough patience and power make Pagan a safe bet to earn that $10 million in 2013, and there’s even a reasonable chance he’ll make good on the entire contract even if we can’t call him underrated anymore.