Spring Training is underway, and though all of the names on MLBTR’s Top 50 ranking from this past November have come off the board, a handful of useful free agents still remain in search of new homes. Angel Pagan quite arguably tops that list. The 35-year-old has averaged 547 plate appearances and 131 games per season across the past two years after missing much of the 2013-14 campaigns due to injury, and the 2016 season was a productive one for the switch-hitter. Pagan batted .277/.331/.418 with a career-high 12 homers to go along with 15 stolen bases and defense in left that ranged from passable (-4 Defensive Runs Saved) to slightly above average (+4.4 Ultimate Zone Rating).
Though he’s played in about 130 games in each of the past two seasons, Pagan has nonetheless required time on the disabled list in each of those campaigns — most recently spending a few weeks on the shelf with a hamstring injury. His days of playing center field on a regular basis could possibly be behind him as well; the Giants shifted Pagan to left field last year after signing Denard Span to a three-year deal. With Pagan set to turn 36 this season and poor defensive metrics from his last regular work in center field (2015 — though he was hampered by knee troubles that season), some clubs may be wary of his glove in center.
Pagan has drawn interest from the Nationals, per FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, who also reported that the Blue Jays and Royals had interest before adding Jose Bautista and Brandon Moss, respectively. Pagan will hardly break the bank at the stage of the offseason — Rosenthal suggested that the Nats are hoping to land him on a minor league deal — but the longtime Giants and Mets outfielder still seems perfectly capable of helping a big league team. His bat checked in at roughly league average last year, per park-adjusted metrics like OPS+ and wRC+, and depending on one’s preferred defensive metric/WAR version, Pagan was worth one to two wins.
Let’s run down a few speculative landing spots for Pagan that make some sense on paper…
- Athletics [Current depth chart]: Oakland’s outfield mix right now looks to include Khris Davis as the primary left fielder, Rajai Davis in center field and Matt Joyce in right (where he’ll platoon with Jake Smolinski). Mark Canha and/or Adam Rosales could see some occasional time in the outfield corners as well, but there’s enough uncertainty here that Pagan could serve as an upgrade.
- Braves [Current depth chart]: Atlanta still doesn’t have much of an option in center in the event of an Ender Inciarte injury or day off. Matt Kemp is no longer an option there, and Jace Peterson has all of eight innings in the Majors at the position. The Braves have claimed corner options like Adam Walker and Christian Walker this winter, but Pagan profiles as more of a traditional fourth outfielder than either of those younger options.
- Blue Jays [Current depth chart]: Even after re-signing Bautista, it’s not hard to see how Pagan could fit into the Jays’ outfield mix. Toronto is currently set to rely on a platoon of Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr./Steve Pearce in left field. Pagan could compete for at-bats in left and could also help to spell Bautista in right (either late in games as a defensive replacement or in the starting lineup on days when Bautista serves as a DH). Speculating further, he could even push Bautista to first base with some degree of regularity (though the team does have both Justin Smoak and Pearce as options there).
- Giants [Current depth chart]: San Francisco seems set on seeing what it has on its hands with a pair of unproven outfielders: Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson. Parker, though, has demonstrated significant strikeout issues and needed a .360 average on balls in play to produce a fairly modest .267 average in the Majors. Williamson is the younger of the pair and has come with his own strikeout issues. Left field still looks like the Giants’ biggest hole, on paper, but they seem to prefer to move on to younger options.
- Nationals [Current depth chart]: Jayson Werth, Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper are set to be the primary outfielders in D.C., but Werth has had his own injury issues in recent years. Michael Taylor, Chris Heisey and perhaps an occasional appearance from Adam Lind appear to be the Nationals’ primary reserve options, but Taylor’s yet to make enough contact in the Majors to tap into his considerable upside. GM Mike Rizzo has been highly active late in the winter, adding both Matt Wieters and Joe Blanton in the past week.
- Orioles [Current depth chart]: The O’s were linked to Pagan back in December, though they’ve since added Michael Bourn and Craig Gentry on minor league deals. Bourn, though, will miss the next four weeks due to a broken finger, so perhaps the Orioles will again turn to Pagan as a possible depth piece. GM Dan Duquette reportedly would like an outfielder that can provide some speed and corner defense, and Pagan can fit that bill. Baltimore does have a pair of Rule 5 outfielders in camp in Aneury Tavarez and Anthony Santander, though, so the team may also feel the outfield scene is crowded enough.
- Pirates [Current depth chart]: No one is supplanting any of Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte or Andrew McCutchen for a regular role in the Pittsburgh outfield, but the primary backup outfielders appear to be Adam Frazier (who was more of an infielder in the minors) and John Jaso, who is definitively limited to the corners.
- Twins [Current depth chart]: Minnesota looks to be going young across the board in the outfield, with Eddie Rosario in left, Byron Buxton in center and Max Kepler in right. Switch-hitter Robbie Grossman is on hand and could serve as a right-handed complement to Rosario or Kepler, and Drew Stubbs is in camp with Minnesota trying to win a job. Out-of-options Danny Santana, a former shortstop, has seen his share of outfield action as well. There are plenty of options for the Twins, but if it’s determined that one of the starters needs to return to Triple-A, or if an option like Stubbs or Santana falters, there’s room for an addition.
- Tigers [Current depth chart]: Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez are set for everyday work in the corners, but the Tigers are going piecemeal in center field. Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Collins look primed to form a platoon, with Anthony Gose and young JaCoby Jones also on hand as options. It’s up for debate whether Pagan’s glove will play in center field anymore, but given the uncertainty in Detroit, it’s easy to see where he could slot into the mix.
- White Sox [Current depth chart]: Melky Cabrera, Charlie Tilson and Avisail Garcia look to be the starting trio for the ChiSox in the outfield, with veteran Peter Bourjos in camp on a non-roster invite. Waiver claim Rymer Liriano, too, could enter the mix — perhaps as a platoon partner for Tilson. Pagan could push Garcia or Cabrera to designated hitter, in theory, or he could slot in elsewhere if the Sox decide that Tilson needs more seasoning.
I’ll open this one up for everyone to weigh in (link to the poll for Trade Rumors mobile app users)…