San Francisco Giants: Why B.J. Upton Could Replace Angel Pagan

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San Francisco Giants: Why B.J. Upton Could Replace Angel Pagan
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
B.J. Upton could provide power and speed at the top of the Giants' 2013 lineup.

Giants’ center-fielder Angel Pagan is in pursuit of a contract that warrants more years than GM Brian Sabean is optimally willing to give him.

Pagan has drawn interest from several teams and is considered to be one of the best free-agent outfielders on the market. He is the highlight of a free-agent class of center fielders that also features base-stealing phenom Michael Bourn and power threat B.J. Upton.

Both Bourn and Upton declined qualifying offers from their respective teams, opting for free agency instead.

Josh Hamilton is the most prominent big name on the market this offseason and is reportedly seeking a contract totaling 7-years and $175 million, according to a tweet authored by John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus.

If the Giants are unable to retain Pagan, they shouldn’t be hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement that can achieve similar—or better—statistical success that Pagan sustained in his first and maybe only season in a Giants' uniform.

Pagan has reportedly drawn interest from the same teams interested in Upton, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

Those teams are rumored to be the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals.

The Braves would be expected to make a hard push to attain Pagan or Upton if Bourn signs elsewhere and whoever signs first will set the market value.

Bourn could command a bigger payday than Pagan. He's two years younger and is fresh off a season where he stole 42 bases in 55 attempts while compiling a respectable .274 batting average and driving-in 57 runs in the leadoff spot for the Braves.

Upton could prove to be the most resourceful fall-back option for the Giants if Sabean is unable to re-sign Pagan.

The former second-overall pick has greatly underachieved in his six full big league seasons, failing to sustain an on-base percentage of .300 in 2012, but is still a valuable player that could benefit from a change in scenery.

He hit .246 in 633 plate appearances but launched a career-best 28 home runs. Upton possesses significant value both as a power threat and a base-stealer. He stole 31 bases last season and was caught stealing just six times.

Upton would ultimately provide the Giants with pop at the top of the lineup, but would need to slash an enormous strikeout tally to be effective on a team that is heavily reliant on its top-two hitters reaching base to generate scoring opportunities.

The Giants ranked last in baseball with 103 home runs in 2012, but still scored 4.13 runs per game during the regular season, despite their glaring lack of power.

Upton struck out 169 times last season, largely impacting why his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) stood 26 points behind the .778 mark set forth by Pagan.

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Upton’s wins above replacement (WAR) checked-in at 3.3 for the Rays in 2012, a full point-and-a-half below Pagan’s tally of 4.8.

Still, Upton is the best alternative to Pagan for the Giants. The 28-year-old outfielder is in the prime of his career, possessing both power and speed.

Upton signed a one-year, $7 million contract to avoid arbitration last offseason and could net as much as $10 million annually, a figure that rivals the number Pagan is assumed to earn.

According the Tampa Times, Upton is expected to make a decision regarding his future next week, which negatively affects the Giants because it remains unlikely that Pagan would sign a deal before the exclusive signing period ends on midnight EST on November 30th.

Pagan could sign a deal during or shortly after MLB Winter Meetings take place the first week of December, however.

If the Giants lock-up Pagan for the foreseeable future at the figure he desires, it would potentially end the tenure of former-closer Brian Wilson as a member of the Giants.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Giants are far from reconciling a deal to bring back the bearded man in 2013.

Wilson's departure could create an ostensible opportunity for the Giants to retain their coveted center fielder.

Still, the Giants won't be pressured into finding another leadoff man if Pagan walks.

The free-agent market is thick with center-field talent, and B.J. Upton is the best possible option for the Giants if Angel Pagan opts to sign somewhere other than San Francisco.

**UPDATE** B.J. Upton has signed a 5-year, $75 million deal with the Atlanta Braves (confirmed by Mark Topkin of the Tampa Times)

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