August 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan (16) claps his hands as he crosses the plate for a run in the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Michael Bourn's name has been bandied about for months as the Phillies' potential solution in center field for 2013 and beyond. It seems like a majority of the fan base is behind the idea, too. Personally, I just don't think he's worth the contract he'll demand on the free agent market, and that there's someone else out there who would be a better fit.
David Murphy over at High Cheese touched on this two weeks ago, but I thought I'd take it a step further. Please, Ruben, don't do anything rash and stupid this offseason. The last thing this team needs is for you to go out and give another unnecessary, overpriced contract to one of the most hyped free agents on the market. It's not smart, and it's not a cost-effective strategy. If anything, most of the time the ramifications of the decisions don't yield desired results. The Phillies need to resist the urge to sign Michael Bourn to the, what, six-year, $80 million contract that Scott Boras will demand? I know everyone is popping wood over possibly bringing him "home," but let's look at this objectively. Bourn is having a career year, it doesn't mean he's destined for more. He still strikes out way too much for a leadoff hitter, turns 30 in December, and it's reasonable to think his game will drop off once he starts losing a step, seeing as how this is the first time he's slugging over .400 in a season. It's tough to definitively judge Bourn fairly because of the terrible Astros teams he played on prior to joining the Braves, but you still have to go by what you see and how you feel about his game. Listen, I think Bourn is a nice player, but he's not someone you pay $80 million. Unless you're fiscally irresponsible and lack any imagination and ingenuity whatsoever when it comes to building a team, that is.
If you watched the Phillies regularly from 2008 through 2011 -- and I get the feeling you just might have -- then you remember Angel Pagan from his days with the Mets. He didn't play particularly well against us overall (.688 OPS), but he did have some huge games and always proved useful even when not at his best. Pagan will turn 32 in July 2013, but, say, a four-year investment should cover at least two or three seasons of prime production. I'd feel even better about the contract because he has proven this season that he doesn't need to rely on his speed to be effective. Oh, and obviously having the surname "Pagan" -- even if it's not pronounced that way -- juxtapositioned with the first name "Angel" is pretty cool. He could have his own "Pagan Gods" cheering section at Citizens Bank Park. Come on, gotta make that happen. Oversensitive religious nutjobs be damned.
For the sake of the Phillies and ensuring financial flexibility moving forward, Amaro would be wise to, instead of throwing an obscene amount of money at Michael Bourn, sign Pagan to a four-year, $32-34 million contract. He has similar, if not better, offensive stats* to Bourn with the speed to steal 30 bases. Pagan has a slightly higher slugging percentage (.437) than Bourn (.420) this season, and their numbers are relatively even across the board (have a look for yourself). Dig deeper and you'll see that Pagan has 72 less plate appearances (57 less official at-bats) than Bourn, so the discrepancy in production essentially balances out. For their careers, Pagan has a better plate discipline rate (check FanGraphs), as well as a slugging percentage and OPS 53 and 48 points, respectively, higher than Bourn. Now, if you want to argue that Bourn is a superior defender to Pagan, the Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) advanced metric certainly agrees with you. Still, is that difference between the two, though considerable, worth an extra $40-50 million? The Braves and Giants are currently two games into a pivotal series, so you can judge for yourself as Bourn and Pagan go head-to-head. Pagan, who has really stepped up his game since the Melky Cabrera suspension, was a critical catalyst in the Giants' two wins Thursday and Friday.
In summation: Discipline and thriftiness, Phillies. Start practicing both, and stop spending money recklessly. Giving $80 million to Michael Bourn would qualify as "recklessly," sorta like giving $50 million to Jonathan Papelbon.
*(Note: All stats in this article are as of the end of Friday, August 24.)