Assuming the Giants weren't interested in the big-dollar free-agent outfielders -- Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher -- re-signing Angel Pagan to a four-year, $40 million deal appears to be a solid deal, even if the Giants ended up going to a fourth season they would have preferred not doing.
Still, let's be honest here: $10 million a year for a 31-year-old outfielder who has had two good seasons as a full-time player (2010 and 2012) is obviously not risk-free ... and certainly a sign of the money available in the game right now. Since 2009 Pagan has hit .285/.337/.427, which makes him a slightly above average offensive performer, especially for a center fielder. In 2012, he hit .289 and slugged .483 away from AT&T Park (seven of his eight home runs came on the road). Having a player comfortable with hitting at AT&T -- and not getting frustrated when a long fly ball is caught deep in the gap -- had to be an important consideration for the Giants.
The questions: How good is Pagan defensively, and how long will he stick in center field? His Defensive Runs Saved the past three seasons:
Certainly, the Giants like his ability to play center, or at least believe that he can cover all that ground in San Francisco well enough. But what are the odds he sticks in center field for the next four seasons? Next year is technically his age-31 season (he turns 32 on July 2), so this deal takes him through his age-34 season. Here are the number of full-time center fielders (500 plate appearances, at least half their games played in center) by age over the past five seasons:
Age 31: 8
Age 32: 5
Age 33: 1 (Torii Hunter in 2009)
Age 34: 1 (Hunter in 2010)
That's not per season. That's total. Center field is a young man's position. The only regular out there at age 33 and 34 was Torii Hunter.
Hmm ... this makes the deal appear a lot more questionable, doesn't it? Pagan may already be losing a step in center from just a couple years ago, so he's very unlikely to still be out there in three or four seasons. For the short term, this contract should be fine; but in the final two years, Pagan is unlikely to have the speed and range to play a quality center field, and his bat could be questionable for a corner outfield spot.
Hey, if Pagan can help the Giants win another World Series in 2013 or 2014, they probably won't care too much if he's a $10 million fourth outfielder in 2016.