“Angel Pagan to the Toronto Blue Jays” is a rumour that doesn’t seem very interested in dying at the moment.
More often than not these type of rumours have mayfly-like lifespans, popping up one day and perishing the next, especially if there are no new developments. The notion of Pagan joining the Blue Jays seems to have a little more resilience.
In early March, there were some whispers regarding a potential Jays-Pagan marriage, although Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com deemed a fit unlikely. Nothing concrete on the matter cropped up for weeks until Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports chimed in:
have heard jays and phillies connected to angel pagan, who is still a free agent
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 24, 2017
Now, that is one vague tweet. This is a reporter saying he’s heard – not necessarily first-hand – that a couple of teams and a player are “connected” – a word that could describe anything from minimal interest to an imminent signing.
To assume that there is something serious brewing between the Blue Jays and Pagan based on this information would be foolish. On the other hand, it would be equally foolish not to acknowledge how neatly the veteran outfielder could fit into Toronto’s plans.
The starting point is a left-field situation that should be unpalatable to a contending team. Melvin Upton Jr. is the perfect short half of a platoon, but Ezequiel Carrera is set to bring his lifetime .245/.304/.345 line against right-handers to bear on the majority of game days.
Pagan is an attractive alternative to face righties as he’s slashed .286/.338/.412 against them in his MLB career, while offering above-average offense by wRC+ in four of the last five seasons. Both have similar defensive profiles as guys who are fast enough to be solid in corners, but lacking the range for centre. In short, Pagan is a significant upgrade.
Even with that being the case, when the rumour first cropped up Toronto seemed unlikely to go for Pagan because of an already-full roster, and a price tag that looked a little steep for a guy who might take some time to warm up without a spring training under his belt. Since then a couple things have happened.
Firstly, Pagan represented Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and looked plenty sharp leading off and hitting a respectable .286/.324/.371 in a tournament-high 35 at-bats – more than many Blue Jays regulars have taken this spring. Additionally, as the season approaches his contract demands are almost certainly getting more and more reasonable.
Secondly, Steve Pearce has yet to play left field for the Blue Jays in Grapefruit League action. Pearce represented an insurance policy if the Carrera-Upton platoon failed to produce, but he’s recovering from forearm surgery and has been limited to first base. Pearce is reportedly set to play in the outfield on Saturday, but it remains unclear how much the club will want to throw him out there – especially early in the season.
Another intriguing factor is a leg contusion suffered by Carrera. In an ideal world, the Blue Jays could bring in a left-field upgrade like Pagan and send Carrera to the minors to serve as handy outfield depth. That isn’t easily accomplished because the latter is out of options and would have to clear waivers to reach Triple-A. While Carrera is no star, there’s are teams that could use a player like him on their bench and there’s no way the Blue Jays are going to be OK with losing him for nothing. His injury opens another door, however.
Toronto could start the season with Carrera on the new 10-day disabled list and then try to sneak him through waivers afterward when most teams’ rosters are more or less solidified. If the Blue Jays want to buy more time, they could send him on a minor-league rehab assignment until they have a need for him, or believe it’s likely that he’ll clear waivers. The fact Carrera returned to the lineup Friday in spring training complicates matters somewhat, but it’s easy enough to say he “didn’t respond well” or “needs more time,” if you’re comfortable with that kind of gamesmanship.
None of these variables are enough to force the Blue Jays to make a move on Pagan. They do, however, make such a move more practical and easier to envision.
Pagan isn’t without his warts. He’s a 35-year-old who’s just about average at the plate and in the field, and reportedly failed a physical with the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the offseason. Even so, the Blue Jays need a platoon outfielder, not an all-star – and the last time the ever-cautious Orioles had a deal fall through for medical reasons, the player went on to have a career season and sign an $82.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ultimately, a deal between Pagan and Blue Jays is less likely to happen than not. That said, it’s rare that such an elegant solution to such an obvious problems rears its head in March. If the Blue Jays can find some change between the seat cushions they’d be wise to take advantage.