There are reports floating around that the Blue Jays continue to shop in advance of Opening Day, and they’ve been recently linked as one of the interested parties to veteran outfielder Angel Pagan.
While the Blue Jays have several areas of their lineup in a virtual lock, the left field picture remains a bit of a mystery at this point in the Grapefruit schedule. In house candidates include veterans Melvin Upton, Ezequiel Carrera and young Canadian, Dalton Pompey. When he’s fully healthy, it’s expected that Steve Pearce will also factor into the picture.
It’s possible the Jays will enter the season with some combination of the above mentioned names, but there are reports (from Gregor Chisholm at MLB.com) that they’re still keeping an eye on available free agents, namely ex-Giant Angel Pagan.
Pagan played with the Giants from 2012-16, and spent parts of 6 seasons between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets before that.
It’s pretty surprising that he’s still on the market at this point in the offseason, as the 35 year old was still pretty productive last season in San Francisco. He had a slash line of .277/.311/.418 with 12 home runs, 55 RBI, and 15 stolen bases in 129 games. The switch-hitter has struggled with injuries for many years, but managed to get 543 at bats last year, his second highest total as a Giant.
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The Blue Jays make a great deal of sense for the veteran (our own Clayton Richer wrote about it last month), assuming both parties would be interested in a deal. There are links to the Washington Nationals as well, and potentially others, as teams still work at tweaking their 25 man rosters prior to Opening Day.
It will likely depend on how little Pagan would be willing to accept, but the Jays actually make a great deal of sense, and arguably a lot more than him joining the Nationals’ roster. Washington sports the likes of Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Jayson Werth as starting options, and all of them will be lineup regulars as long as they’re healthy.
In Toronto, Pagan would likely compete for at least a starting platoon gig in left field. While Carrera played very well in the playoffs last year, it remains a pretty big question mark whether he could handle a full time job for an entire regular season. Melvin Upton figures to see plenty of time against lefties, but struggles against same side pitching. Pompey figures to return to Triple A, and Pearce could be needed elsewhere.
Justin Smoak has struggled thus far this Spring and for much of last year, and will have to produce relatively early in the season, otherwise Pearce could end of seeing the majority of time at first base. At the moment it sounds like Smoak will get a long look as the starter, but things can change quickly when you aren’t producing.
Some may argue that Carrera deserves an opportunity, but he’s likely best employed as a part-time/depth player, if the roster room permits. He’s not an ideal platoon partner for Upton, as he actually hits lefties at a more successful clip, sporting a .286 average against southpaws, and a .245 average against righties.
According to mlb rumours.com more than a week ago, the term “minor league deal” is even being discussed with Pagan at this point, which is certainly surprising. He’s a switch-hitter who is capable of manning the corner outfield spots, and could likely still handle centre in a pinch. He was worth 1.0 WAR last year, and considering his career track record, he should have been able to secure a major league contract.
Now that his market has gotten here, it’s not surprising that the Blue Jays are kicking tires. Pagan earned 11.25 million last season, and obviously will have to accept a pretty severe pay cut. If there isn’t a team willing to give him a major league contract, it’s likely that the veteran would look to the best place to get himself on the field, which could work to the Jays’ advantage.
He could be a candidate for a similar type of contract that Jarrod Saltalamacchia received earlier this offseason. His minor league deal guarantees him 1.5 million on the condition that he’s on the major league roster. If Pagan is forced to accept a MiLB contract, he could look for something similar, or possibly a little more.
At that rate, the Blue Jays would be smart to consider the 11 year veteran. While he’s not going to post a 5.3 WAR as he did in 2010, he could be a sensible platoon partner for Upton, and an upgrade over the current options, especially if Pearce ends up playing the majority of games at first.