When the New York Mets signed Jason Bay on Tuesday, they conceivably shrunk the outfield market for the Chicago Cubs (by making Jacoby Ellsbury slightly less likely to be traded). But they may have simultaneously increased the market – namely, by overloading their own outfield. Jason Bay is expected to play left field, Carlos Beltran will play center, and Jeff Francoeur will play right.
But the Mets have a fourth guy who may have proved himself a capable starter last year: Angel Pagan.
Thrust into regular duty by injury and ineffectiveness, Pagan tore things up in 2009: in the second half of the season, when he became a regular, he played 71 games, and put up a .306 / .343 / .503 line. Pagan, a 27 year old switch hitter, also played solid defense all over the outfield, but mostly in center.
So why couldn’t he play center field for the Cubs next year?
The obvious, and primary answer is: well, maybe the Mets won’t want to trade him. And maybe they won’t – after all, Pagan is poised to be the best fourth outfielder in all of baseball, and is an excellent insurance policy should one of their starters go down. Further, he’s going to be hugely inexpensive: he made just $575k last year, his first arbitration year. That means he will be cheap for the next two years.
But those are all also reasons the Cubs should be pushing hard to acquire him. A trade could take the form of a simple Cubs-prospects-for-Pagan type, but maybe the Cubs could get a little more creative. The Mets are looking to dump some salary – but the Cubs have little salary room to spare. However, if the Cubs could use that little salary room to fill two holes at once – say, with a center fielder and a pitcher – they’d gladly do it, no? The Mets are looking to move Oliver Perez and his two years and $24 million left on his deal, and maybe the Cubs can take on some of that salary, with the real prize being Pagan.
Even better, the Mets are looking to move second baseman Luis Castillo, who stands to make $6 million in 2010 and 2011. How much improved would the Cubs lineup look with Castillo at second and Pagan manning center?
Yes, I know it is always frustrating (even though the frustration is completely irrational) to try and get back a guy that your team gave up for basically nothing. The Cubs traded Pagan to the Mets before the 2008 season for two minor leaguers who’ve not been heard from since. The return price would obviously be much, much steeper.
Humorously, this post could almost as easily be about Felix Pie, except (a) the Orioles don’t have quite the same outfield glut as the Mets, and (b) it would be even more irrationally frustrating to discuss getting Pie back because Pie was supposed to be this good.
In the end, Pagan would be a great fit for the Cubs – probably a slightly better fit than he is with the Mets. And from an invisible hand economics perspective, that should mean that it’s worth the Cubs making a trade for him and worth the Mets trading him. Things don’t always play out in a way that makes sense, though, and this is not likely to go down.
But it’s worth considering.