Does Ángel Pagán on a Minor League Contract Make Sense For the Jays?

Pagan
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I might be OK with giving Ángel Pagán a big league deal. So, if you’re asking me, the answer to the question posed by the title of this post is prooooobably going to end up being, “Yes.”

But rather than simply leave it at that, we have reason to actually think about the question a little bit today, as in a multi-pronged piece on Monday morning at Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Washington Nationals are “among the teams interested” in signing Pagán to such a deal. MLBTR speculates that, because the Nats have an outfield full of Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, and Jayson Werth, maybe they’re not exactly the best fit for Pagan’s services. 

*COUGH*

“Per Rosenthal, Pagan also drew interest from the Blue Jays and the Royals earlier this winter, but those two teams have since inked Jose Bautista and Brandon Moss to respective contracts,” writes MLBTR’s Steve Adams. “Bautista’s deal with the Jays, though, hardly seems like it should entirely preclude Toronto from harboring continued interest in Pagan. The Blue Jays currently look poised to deploy a platoon of Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. in left field, and it’s not difficult to argue that Pagan would be an upgrade over that pairing.”

Pagán was a two win player for the Giants last season. He had a dip in performance in 2015, but was worth about a win-and-a-half in each of the two seasons prior to that. He’s a switch hitter who  makes contact at an elite rate — his contact rate for pitches in the zone in 2016 (93.9%) was the 10th highest among qualified hitters, and his swinging strike rate (4.2%) was tied for the fifth lowest. Lately when he’s been good (i.e. in years not named 2015) he’s been especially good against right-handers, posting a 112 wRC+ in the split in 2016, and 128 in 2014, making him a tasty option to platoon with Melvin Upton. 

Pagán, even at age 36, is a good runner, and though he provided increasingly poor defence in centre field through 2015, in 2016 he moved to left and graded out rather nicely by at least one of the metrics (his 4.4 UZR, though he had a -4 DRS). He isn’t the most durable player, so maybe asking him to play on the Rogers Centre turf isn’t ideal. And he didn’t grade out well per Tony Blengino’s quality of contact reports at FanGraphs — something I feel might hint at the Jays’ internal metrics, given how highly it regarded both Kendrys Morales, Steve Pearce, and some other guys who seemed to be Jays targets this winter — though his “adjusted” 101 wRC+ was still significantly better than Upton’s adjusted mark.

In an ideal world, Dalton Pompey would take this job and run with it and be a full-fledged everyday outfielder for the Blue Jays for many years to come. But, of course, nobody is sure if he’s going to do that. If he doesn’t, the Jays are looking at what? Two ideas that are very bad for very different reasons: asking Ezequiel Carrera to play far more than his track record says he should — especially his track record against right-handers; or having Steve Pearce out there trying to stay healthy as he spells Melvin Upton against right-handers in left field, and spells Justin Smoak against left-handers at first base.

Relying on Pearce to haul himself around on the turf that often seems disastrous. Allowing Justin Smoak all the first base at-bats against right-handers seems disastrous. Pretending Carrera actually works as the lefty half of a platoon with Upton seems disastrous.

Crossing your fingers and hoping that Pompey wins the job because you have no real safety net for him seems disastrous.

Pagán, especially if he’s on a minor league deal, can absolutely be that safety net. He either costs you nothing and Pompey wins the job, or he takes the job himself outright. The other options aren’t viable options. And if Pagán is willing to go to Washington on a minor league deal to be a fourth outfielder without anything close to the same kind of opportunity to win regular playing time against right-handers as he’d get from the Jays, the Jays should be all over this one.

He’s not a panacea. He might not even be good. But he’s a piece that actually makes sense, at a price that makes sense, for a position where the Jays appear to be kidding themselves about the quality of their current options.

There is literally nothing to lose here.