Mailbag: Why did the Mets give up on Angel Pagan?

In December 2011, the Mets traded cash and Angel Pagan to the Giants for OF Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez.

Torres hit just .230 with 24 extra base hits in 132 games, while Pagan hit .288 with 61 extra base hits in 154 games on route to a trip to the NLCS.

Peter B in New York sent in an e-mail asking: “Can you refresh my memory as to why the Mets traded Pagan? Sandy Alderson has to take the hit for a terrible trade. He’s a switch hitting CF with gap power (perfect for Citi Field) in his prime. Boy, we could have used him in the leadoff spot this year. They gave up on him way too fast.”

Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer

The Mets clearly got burned on this deal. However, that’s going to happen. In the end, a GM hopes to get more of these deals right than he gets wrong. It’s more important to look back at the reality within the trade was made.

Here is a look back at what bloggers and reporters said the day after the trade was executed:

The day after the deal was executed, I wrote this, pointing out that Pagan and Torres had produced similarly over the previous season or two:

“Torres is older, but has more pop and patience at the plate. However, Pagan is probably a better contact hitter. Both players are rather injury prone, but capable of stealing 20 bases. They also have nearly identical facial hair.  The difference? Defense, hustle and attitude. In the last six months, I’ve lost count of how many people told me about how disappointed Terry was with Pagan’s demeanor last season. From what I can gather, Collins and Sandy Alderson have told people Pagan cracked under the pressure of taking over for Beltran, he got down on himself early in the year and never rebounded from it. “He quit on himself,” a person in the clubhouse once told me. They all seem to take particular issue him claiming to be dehydrated and missing multiple games in July.”

That said, in February, before this season started, I wrote:

“I’m OK with Torres starting in center on Opening Day to give him a chance to return to being the player he was in 2010, but I have a feeling he might eventually end up a fourth outfielder…”

The Mets bet on Torres and lost, but as you can see in my response there was plenty to be skeptical of. Pagan won, no doubt. The thing is, there is no way to know if Pagan would have done for Mets this season what he did for San Francisco. Remember, when he had a similarly successful season in 2010, he was filling in for Beltran (in the field) and occasionally spotting Jose Reyes at the top of the order. There was far less pressure. However, in 2011, he was given center field outright (moving Beltran to a corner). Pagan was the man, basically, and a focus of reports in spring training, and the Mets seemed to feel he didn’t rise to the challenge. Instead, he struggled, pressed, was injured at times, and totally underperformed… the thing is, Torres struggled in 2011 as well, despite being a more productive player than Pagan the year before. The difference is that Torres did nothing in 2012, while Pagan returned to the player he was in 2010. The Mets took this bet, hoping Torres would snap back as well, while also acquiring a consistent right-handed reliever (in Ramirez) who had a track record of retiring left-handed hitters. Ramirez was essentially a bust, too, though, and so the deal now looks terrible.

Again, these deals are going to pan out at times (Pagan) and work other times (Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran). The thing is, so far, in two years at the helm, I’ve yet to see Alderson and his staff of former GMs make a deal that has gone their way and made a significant impact at the big-league level. For all of the talk about advanced statistics, evidence-based-research, methodical moves, ‘Moneyball,’ and picking diamonds in the rough, their record for bringing in low-risk, high-reward guys is mostly lacking in the reward department. I give them credit for Scott Hairston, Chris Capuano and Chris Young, and for handling Omar Minaya’s prospects with care, creating space for his kids to succeed and sticking with them. They could have easily blocked guys, derailed careers or traded people away (as Minaya did as well). They didn’t, which is a good thing, and they now have a good crop of prospects to either build on or deal for better players.

That said, it’s time to start the dealing. And, so far, I have not seen anything to suggest they can make those moves successfully. I’m not saying they can’t. They’re professionals with a good track record from before joining the Mets. They’re capable, no doubt. However, all I’m saying is, after two years of babysitting and a few bad bets, the time has come to get that record back on track.

Pagan earned $4.75 million in the final year of his current contract. He will be a free agent at the end of this season.

The early buzz in San Francisco is that the Giants would like to re-signed Pagan, who is expected to seek a three-year deal.