I think the expiration date is up on the Aubrey Huff references this offseason. As in, the Giants are considering bringing Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro back, but remember that time after 2010, when they paid too much to keep an over-30 player after a championship season? Be smart, Giants! Don't fall into the same trap!
The analogy breaks down when you consider that Huff was older than Pagan, blocking a better prospect than Gary Brown, and coming off a more surprising season. Even considering all that, it was a defensible baseball move. It wasn't just something that marketing came back with after a bunch of focus groups.
Angel Pagan for 2013 does not have to equal Aubrey Huff in 2011. It's an easy comparison. It's also lazy. Like, too lazy for me, even.
But that doesn't mean Pagan is automatically a great idea. He's 31 and he'll want a three- or four-year deal for much monies. Pagan morphed into a starter in his late 20s, and those guys make me irrationally wary. I'm always worried the universe is going to figure out it forgot to carry the two, and the correction would mean Pagan goes right back to the fifth-outfielder candidate he was for years and years.
Even looking at it without the stink of fanboy, it's hard to make the case for a lot of the other center fielders on the market, though. Michael Bourn is swell, but the Giants would have to over more years and more money for a player whose entire value is tied to his legs. If Bourn isn't fielding or stealing at 100 percent into his mid-30s, he's not worth the fancy contract. B.J. Upton's strikeout and contact rates are trending in an ugly direction, and the fielding/running thing applies to him as well. Shane Victorino will eventually melt after he opens the Ark of the Covenant, and I don't think insurance covers that.
When it comes to Josh Hamilton, well, I'll admit being intrigued by this:
"Nobody is giving him more than four years," said one agent.
But there's always that team. There will be that team this offseason, and there will be that team in the next offseason. The Giants will not be that team when it comes to Josh Hamilton, who will sign for more than four years.
And that's it for the center fielders on the market. There's also the option of signing Nick Swisher, and installing Blanco as the starting center fielder after getting him a platoon partner like -- oh, hella barf -- Scott Hairston until Brown is ready. Swisher is 32, but he's been remarkably consistent -- he's hit 20 homers in each of the last eight seasons, and only once has his OPS+ been outside the range of 120 to 129, which is just freaky. He's the only corner outfielder of note, though.
The in-house options are something like:
- Gregor Blanco
- Gary Brown (struggled a bit in Double-A)
- Francisco Peguero (struggled a lot in Triple-A)
- Eli Whiteside (a catcher who is on the Yankees now)
- Todd Linden (wait, they didn't really have Linden in the organization last year, right?)
- Jibdec (a player with 15 speed that I made on Baseball Stars in 1989 and am willing to loan out if needed)
Which leaves my order of preference something like this:
1. Hamilton for four years (which isn't going to happen)
2. Pagan for three years (which certainly could)
3. Swisher for four years (which would be a mess by the end, but possibly worth it for the front end)
4. Bourn for five years (gross)
5. Upton for five years (grosser)
When it comes to the free-agent options, I'm pretty sure Pagan is the best value, sentimentality be damned. His 2011 was the anomaly over the last four years, which means he's a pretty good player to have. If you buy into WAR, it's probably worth noting that since 2009, Pagan has been worth 14 wins, with Hamilton worth 16. And at three years, the risk with Pagan is a lot lower than all of the other guys.
So I'm on Team Pagan, and not just because I want the bobblehead. Possibly because I want the bobblehead. But it probably makes baseball sense, too. The correct answer is probably that Sabean will make a trade that will melt this place into collector's-edition stupid, but I can't see that far ahead. If it's going to be a free agent, Pagan makes the most sense.