While the New York Mets are more famous for bonehead trades and signings, that doesn’t mean they haven’t ever had a savvy transaction. To their credit, throughout Mets history, there have been some moves that have propelled the Mets from mediocrity to playoff and even World Series contention. “Amazin’ Moves” will be an on-going series that will explore these finer moments. Today, I will examine when the Mets traded for Angel Pagan in 2008.
Actually let me backtrack. The Mets actually drafted Pagan in the 4th round of the draft in 1999 and signed him in 2000. After toiling in the team’s farm system for six years, his contract was purchased by the Cubs prior to the 2006 season. He spent 2006-7 with Chicago but battled injuries and only made 348 plate appearances in a Cubs uniform, not putting up any spectacular numbers. That is when General Manager Omar Minaya swooped in and acquired Pagan for two minor leaguers, outfielder Corey Coles and pitcher Ryan Meyers, both of whom never saw major league action.
Pagan’s first two major league seasons in New York were marred by injury. He actually was the starting left fielder in 2008 (Moises Alou was on the DL) and played in 31 games before he injured his shoulder while making a catch running into the stands. In 2009, Pagan appeared in 88 games, hitting .306/.350/.487 with six homers. Seemingly poised to be the starting center fielder on Opening Day in 2010 with Carlos Beltran beginning the season on the disabled list, Angel was denied that role by Gary Matthews Jr. Fortunately for Met fans, Matthews Jr. played poorly and was eventually released, leading to Pagan’s emergence.
In his first full major league season, Pagan batted .290/.340/.725 with 11 home runs and 37 steals in 46 chances, playing all three outfield positions. He performed better against righties than lefties, but the split was not so pronounced that he was a liability one way or the other. He produced a wOBA of .341 and a wRC+ of 112 and made a productive out 35% of the time (Elias and ESPN define a productive out as when a pitcher successfully sacrifices with one out, when a runner advances with no outs, or when a runner is driven in with the second out of the inning), while also making contact 86.9% of the time (the league average last year was 80.7%). Furthermore, according to FanGraphs, Pagan proved successful last year against the changeup, where he was worth 1.01 runs above average per 100 changeups, and the splitter, where he was worth 2.97 runs above average per 100 splitters. Continued success against both of those pitches will be key to Angel’s success, since he will see plenty of them as a switch hitter.
So Pagan can hit a little; he will never be a cleanup or three hitter, but he is solid and reliable. However, where Pagan really excelled last year was his defense. It’s no secret that Citi Field is spacious, especially in center field, where Angel spent the majority of his time. All told, Pagan only committed five errors last season, recorded 10 outfield assists, and saved 14 runs above average. Broken down, Pagan was worth eight runs above average based on the plus/minus system (in short, he got to a lot of balls in the outfield) and six runs based on his outfield arm. While playing center last year, Pagan kept runners from advancing 55.1% of the time (the major league average has been 46% over the past few seasons) and posted a kill percentage (the percentage of time runners are thrown out trying to advance) of 4.4% (the ML average over the past few seasons has been 1.9%). With Carlos Beltran moving to right field full time this season, Pagan will patrol center for the Amazins all season, from which the Mets will benefit.
According to Baseball-Reference, Pagan was the Mets MVP last season, posting a WAR of 4.8 (David Wright’s offensive WAR was 4.7, but due to his struggles on defense, his total WAR was 3.9), which was ranked ninth among position players. While it would be great if Pagan posted similar numbers as last year, the Mets will look for even more from the 29 year old this season, where he figures to bat second in the lineup. Slated to become a free agent after the 2012 season, the Mets might be wise to lockup Pagan, ensuring that the team benefits from this amazin’ move for awhile.