Angel Pagan: Should the Mets Bring the Speedy Center Fielder Back?

Alex SchuhartCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Angel Pagan #16 of the New York Mets  reacts after hitting an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on September 12, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

The question is simple: Should the New York Mets bring arbitration-eligible center fielder Angel Pagan back for 2012?

The answer, yes or no, is not so simple, as there are many factors to weigh.

Pagan began the 2011 season by hitting a paltry .185 through his first 81 at-bats, and through his first 271 turns at the dish, his mark was a meager .236.

Since July 26, however, he has turned it on—to a degree—by hitting .295 in 207 at-bats.

Despite his late-season resurgence, Pagan’s season average is still a mere .262 with just a few games left to go. His on-base percentage is down 18 points from a year ago and his .372 slugging percentage is the lowest of his career.

To make matters worse, his 10 errors in center field are the second-most among National League outfielders and his fielding percentage is only .968.

His performance isn't the only consideration, either. Since he is arbitration-eligible, he will likely earn around $4 million if kept. Is that a sum the Mets should be willing to invest?

In short, his 2011 performance may be too poor and his cost too high for the Mets to want him back. And yet...

He still possesses excellent speed, swiping 32 bases this season, and he is on pace to set a career high in walks, though his ability to draw them—or lack thereof—has never been his calling card.

Though his 2011 season has been lackluster, it should be remembered that he is not that far removed from success—that is, 2011 could be an aberration.

In 2009 and 2010, Pagan hit a combined .296 with 18 triples, 134 runs, 51 stolen bases and a solid 113 OPS+. His slugging percentage was .448 and his on-base percentage was .344.

Those numbers, though not stupendous, are still hard to ignore.

And because of that, I say give Pagan one more year. 2011 was a year of adjustment for the 30-year-old outfielder, as it was his first time spending an entire season in center field.  

He is still in his prime, and judging by his performances in 2009 and 2010, he can ably hack it at the major league level.

Perhaps I am biased towards wanting him back, since I’ve always been a fan of the Puerto Rico native. Perhaps I just have a thing towards liking scrappy, speedy outfielders with cool nicknames like Crazy Horse.

However, I’m also a believer in giving a player one more year, especially if the previous season, like Pagan’s 2011, was his first really unimpressive year with a team. Perhaps all he needs is an offseason and a spring to sort himself out.

I know this always sounds really easy on paper, but if by the 2012 trading deadline he is still performing inadequately, then deal him away. Don’t let him walk now—offer him arbitration and give him half a season, then make a deal if need be. If a team was willing to acquire Milton Bradley, a team will surely be willing to acquire Angel Pagan, even if he is struggling.

A 2012 Mets outfield with Jason Bay (blech) in left, Pagan in center and Lucas Duda in right has the potential to be, at the very least, satisfactory—but Pagan needs to return to form.

And let’s give him one more year to do so.