Trade Angel Pagan? Last year’s most valuable player on the team? You betcha. In fact, it makes some sense for the Mets in a couple of different ways, and he has some value in the trade market.
Finally able to stay healthy, Pagan had a breakout year in 2010, hitting .290/.340/.425 with 11 homers and 44 stolen bases. He also played exceptional defense, saving a total of 14 runs across all three outfield positions, and produced a WAR of 4.7. He got off to a slow start this season, but since returning from the disabled list has caught fire, going 10-25 with a double and two stolen bases, much more resembling the Angel of last season.
So what makes Pagan a possible trade chip? When healthy, he’s proven that he’s been able to hit, and has some pop in his bat, as evidenced by the home run total from last season. Although he’s struggled a little defensively this season, most teams would probably look past that and see that throughout his career, he’s been a strong defensive outfielder, no matter what position he’s played. But what also is appealing about Pagan is that he is under control through 2012, when he will be arbitration eligible for the final time. After seeing his salary increase $1.45 million in 2010 to $3.5 million in 2011, Pagan will probably earn somewhere around $5-$5.5 million through arbitration (or through avoiding it) next season if he can wind up producing at a similar level as last year for the remainder of this season.
That amount of money isn’t really a lot to spend on a starting center fielder, but given the Mets current financial situation, the Sandy Alderson and company might find it more prudent to deal away Angel for a minor leaguer or two or some other player that doesn’t fit on his current team. As evidenced this past offseason, Alderson could spend five million dollars on two or three players, or put some of that money towards re-signing Jose Reyes. Furthermore, the Mets have some depth at center field in their minor league system, including Kirk Nieuwenhuis at Buffalo, Matt den Dekker at St. Lucie and Darrell Ceciiani at Savannah (Cory Vaughn has also played center but projects more as a corner outfielder).
There are a few teams that could be in the market for a player like Pagan. The Washington Nationals are looking for a center fielder and leadoff hitter and have inquired about the Astros Michael Bourn, who is also arbitration eligible for the final time next season but will probably come at a little higher price in terms of money (seeing as he already makes $4.4 million this year) and players. Nate McLouth has struggled with the Atlanta and is off to a .238/.332/.341 start and is currently on the disabled list, forcing the Braves to go with Jordan Schafer in the meantime. McClouth will likely be bought out of his contract after this season for $1.25 million (instead of the $10.65 million option), and could conceivably be cut loose if he struggles while the year goes on (if he were to return to the Mets in a trade, the Braves would have to eat some of that contract). Trading within the division is always risky, but the Mets have done it before (see: Mike Piazza, Carlos Delgado). If Nyjer Morgan wears out his welcome in Milwaukee, Pagan might be a good fit there as well.
I’m fan of Pagan, and was excited to see him return to the lineup. If the Mets are going to make any noise, he needs to be healthy. However, if the Mets become sellers, he could become a valuable commodity on the market.