Two things crossed my mind while watching former-Cub Angel Pagan this postseason.
1. How many titanium necklaces does one need around the neck to feel comfortable playing a baseball game?
2. It’s a shame the Cubs ever parted ways with Pagan.
Let’s begin with No.2. To jog the memory, Pagan spent his first two major league seasons with the Cubs in 2006-07 as a fourth outfielder.
But a succession of nagging injuries greatly limited his playing time and ultimately lead Jim Hendry to trade the then 25-year to the Mets for two minor leaguers you’ve never heard of and who never reached the majors.
It’s still a wonder why Hendry didn’t hold on to the switch-hitter a little longer, especially considering the return in the trade was so negligible and Pagan was still a young man showing encouraging potential when healthy.
Instead Hendry put his chips down on outfielders Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Sam Fold–each experiencing limited success with the Cubs, but none panning out as well as Pagan has.
By Angel’s second season with the Mets he posted the top WAR on the team (3.8) despite playing in only 88-games…partly limited by injuries and partly blocked by an outfield of Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Fancoeur.
In his third season, however, Pagan managed to play in 151-games and again had the highest WAR of any Mets player (5.1).
His offensive numbers didn’t jump off the page in either season, but he was proving to be an above average, all-around outfielder with plus-defense and the ability to steal bases, swiping 55-bags total in his first three season in New York.
His fourth and final season with the Mets was marked with more physical ailments, specifically a pesky oblique injury in early April, which limited Pagan’s season to 123-games, and saw a significant decline in his offensive production.
That likely led to New York’s decision to part way with Pagan in the offseason dealing him to San Francisco for reliever Ramon Ramirez and center fielder Andres Torres.
Pagan, now 30, responded with the best season of his career playing in a career-high 154-games, leading the majors with 15-triples, posting a solid 121 OPS+ and playing a sparkling center field on his way to winning a World Series ring.
All said, there’s no reason to believe Pagan wouldn’t have been just as good throughout his career with the Cubs had Hendry held onto him.
Meanwhile, from 2008 to present the Cubs have gone through outfielders: Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie, Sam Fold, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Craig Monroe, Eric Patterson, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Jake Fox, Jim Edmonds, Reed Johnson, Bobby Scales, Ryan Freel, Joey Gathright, Tyler Colvin, So Taguchi, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, Brad Snyder, Luis Montanez and Joe Mather.
Did I miss anybody?
What stands out is there’s not a single outfielder on that list who was significantly better while with the Cubs than Pagan has been during his career.
So it seems safe to say this was one (of many) deals Hendry would’ve liked to have had back, even if Pagan is, in fact, injury prone.
Better still, Pagan is also better than the centerfield options the Cubs presently have on its roster. I know there’s high hope for Brett Jackson, but it’s a near lock he won’t be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day 2013.
What’s next for Pagan? He’s a 31-year-old free agent primed to cash-in with a multi-year deal this winter.
It’s unclear if any team will risk Angel’s long history of injuries to pay him top-dollar over multiple seasons. I happen to like his chance of returning to the Giants…say in the 2-3 year range.
As for those unsightly titanium necklaces, Pagan seems to prefer wearing two necklaces when playing.
I figure you could get 13 or 14 around his neck comfortably and let’s say 19 if you really forced the issue.
But when you’ve helped your team to a World Series title with leadoff home runs and sensational defense, not to mention winning free tacos for all of America, you get a free pass to wear as many necklaces as you wish.
The only thing I’d change is that Pagan was wearing his titanium rings with the Cubs.
*Look who steals third in the video below…