Photo Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Heyman Has “Heard” the Jays and Phillies “Connected” to Ángel Pagán

Hey! It’s Ángel Pagán time again, apparently, as Jon Heyman laid this on Jays fans on Thursday night:

Now, while it may be implied, and we may want it to be implied, it doesn’t say that he necessarily heard this today. The Jays have indeed been connected to this Pagán business for quite some time now — y’know, because it’s glaringly obvious that they’d be better off with Steve Pearce at first base, and someone other than Ezequiel Carrera platooning with Melvin Upton Jr. in left field — and so maybe that’s all Heyman means here. This tweet is all he said about it, so who knows?

But Pagán does still make a lot of sense — more sense, even, than he did a couple weeks ago, before Upton’s shoulder started barking, Carrera’s finger got hurt, and Pompey picked up a concussion.

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The stupid shitty Orioles may have even done the Jays a favour by trying to sign Pagán and then letting it get out there that he failed a physical — hardly uncommon for the O’s, but perhaps enough to depress his market or convince him that he maybe should rethink holding out for a big league contract.

Because that’s kind of the thing: guaranteeing Pagán a big league deal and big league money is probably not the greatest idea. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an OK idea and the Jays should do it and not be so concerned about the money aspect of it (though, of course, the front office has to be concerned about the money, because like every other team in the known universe, they do have a budget and they don’t want to kill their flexibility to make mid-season deals). But on a minor league deal, or a minor league deal with a guaranteed big league salary if he makes the club? Sure. Giddy up.

We’re talking about a flawed player, sure, but he looked fine in the WBC for Puerto Rico, picking up 10 hits in 35 at-bats for the runners-up, with two doubles and two walks. Those numbers were good for a slash line of .286/.324/.371, which… isn’t great. Especially considering the calibre of some of the competition (and though one of those doubles was off the otherwise-dominant Marcus Stroman on Wednesday night, it came after Marcus had been sitting and getting cold for like 36 minutes). But that’s a small sample. Plus, he didn’t embarrass himself, he looked at the very least passable (so far as I remember, but there were a lot of moments of his play that I missed) with the glove in the outfield, and it’s not like the bar he has to cross in order to be useful to the Jays is very high!

As for his recent big league numbers, allow me to quote some of the things I wrote three weeks ago, when this idea last came up:

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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.

I understand the Jays trying to avoid tying up too much money into left field in the hopes that Dalton Pompey might be able to hit his way out of Buffalo and be a legitimate option for them there. And I understand, to a somewhat lesser extent, their willingness to hump the dream that is Justin Smoak and cross their fingers that Steve Pearce can play in the outfield a lot. But can Pearce even throw at this point?

Today he told Jonathan Meoli of the Baltimore Sun that he’s only throwing just now throwing at 150 feet. He then added, “I just played my first game at first base the other day. I’m going to go between playing first base and DHing and then when my arm gets good, maybe I’ll get in the outfield.”

Doesn’t exactly sound like a player who is going to be logging a lot of innings in left field anytime soon.

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And, of course, perhaps a more obvious question is, can Smoak even hit at this point? It’s only spring, I know, but the Jays have been giving him plenty of at-bats — 40 of them so far — and the results have been as ugly as… well… as ugly as you’d probably expect, you soulless ghoul! Six hits, six walks, one home run, one double, 13 strikeouts. That’s .150/.255/.250, kids.

For shit sakes, we were talking ourselves into Kelly fucking Johnson earlier in the week. Pagán works, too. And, I mean, at this point, why the hell not? Because there’s a good chance he’ll be bad? Well, yeah, I suppose so. But there’s also a chance he might be alright!

If you’re Ross Atkins, do you have that much confidence that in a month you won’t be scrambling to do something to replace Melvin or Zeke or Smoak or all three, and ruing the fact that you let this kind of opportunity (or, let’s be honest, “opportunity”) pass you by? Because I sure as shit don’t have confidence that that isn’t the path this club is on unless something changes. Getting maybe a win or a win-and-a-half out of Pagán while taking away like 450 potential plate appearances from Zeke and forcing Smoak to the bench and Pearce to first base? That sounds kiiiiiiinda good, doesn’t it?

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