Crazy to think at one point the Cubs could’ve played an outfield of Josh Hamilton,Angel Pagan and Alfonso Soriano.
It could’ve happened as early as 2007, but the possibility hardly had a chance to take root and likely wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.
Chicago selected Hamilton with the third overall pick in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, but immediately traded him to Cincinnati for $100,000.
Meanwhile, Pagan, then 24, had just made his major league debut in 2006. He stayed through 2007 as a part-time player (injuries too) before Jim Hendry traded him during the offseason to the Mets for Corey Coles and Ryan Meyers, neither of whom reached the big leagues.
Granted the Cubs won back-to-back divisions titles in ’07-’08, but what might have been had Hendry not pushed all his chips in on outfielders Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome?
And that’s not to forget Soriano’s mega-deal of 8-years, $136M.
To be fair, Hendry wasn’t always afforded the luxury of a long-term approach to win a world series. The Tribune company wanted to sell the team and a championship trophy was the leverage to increase the selling price. The future success of the organization was barely an afterthought.
Shortsightedness, however, is one of the pitfalls of a ‘win-now’ mentality the Cubs were operating under five-years ago. It induces panic to set in when falling short of the ultimate goal, and when panic takes hold you sign Milton Bradley.
That’s why it’s so encouraging Tom Ricketts is taking an opposite approach from the previous ownership. With Team Theo the Cubs are methodically building a plan for sustained success.
The ultimate goal will always be winning the world series, but when the Cubs fall short it won’t take hitting rock-bottom to get another crack at the hardware.
The pace of rebuilding is painfully slow, but the chance another dynamic outfield trio slips through Chicago’s hands is unlikely. With Epstein at the wheel the future will never be out of sight out of mind; for that we can be thankful.
Two things crossed my mind while watching former-Cub Angel Pagan this postseason.
1. How many titanium necklaces does one need around the neck to feel comfortable playing a baseball game?
2. It’s a shame the Cubs ever parted ways with Pagan.
Let’s begin with No.2. To jog the memory, Pagan spent his first two major league seasons with the Cubs in 2006-07 as a fourth outfielder.
But a succession of nagging injuries greatly limited his playing time and ultimately lead Jim Hendry to trade the then 25-year to the Mets for two minor leaguers you’ve never heard of and who never reached the majors.
It’s still a wonder why Hendry didn’t hold on to the switch-hitter a little longer, especially considering the return in the trade was so negligible and Pagan was still a young man showing encouraging potential when healthy.
Instead Hendry put his chips down on outfielders Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie and Sam Fold–each experiencing limited success with the Cubs, but none panning out as well as Pagan has.
By Angel’s second season with the Mets he posted the top WAR on the team (3.8) despite playing in only 88-games…partly limited by injuries and partly blocked by an outfield of Gary Sheffield, Carlos Beltran and Jeff Fancoeur.
In his third season, however, Pagan managed to play in 151-games and again had the highest WAR of any Mets player (5.1).
His offensive numbers didn’t jump off the page in either season, but he was proving to be an above average, all-around outfielder with plus-defense and the ability to steal bases, swiping 55-bags total in his first three season in New York.
His fourth and final season with the Mets was marked with more physical ailments, specifically a pesky oblique injury in early April, which limited Pagan’s season to 123-games, and saw a significant decline in his offensive production.
That likely led to New York’s decision to part way with Pagan in the offseason dealing him to San Francisco for reliever Ramon Ramirez and center fielder Andres Torres.
Pagan, now 30, responded with the best season of his career playing in a career-high 154-games, leading the majors with 15-triples, posting a solid 121 OPS+ and playing a sparkling center field on his way to winning a World Series ring.
All said, there’s no reason to believe Pagan wouldn’t have been just as good throughout his career with the Cubs had Hendry held onto him.
Meanwhile, from 2008 to present the Cubs have gone through outfielders: Buck Coats, Matt Murton, Felix Pie, Sam Fold, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Craig Monroe, Eric Patterson, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, Jake Fox, Jim Edmonds, Reed Johnson, Bobby Scales, Ryan Freel, Joey Gathright, Tyler Colvin, So Taguchi, Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, Brad Snyder, Luis Montanez and Joe Mather.
Did I miss anybody?
What stands out is there’s not a single outfielder on that list who was significantly better while with the Cubs than Pagan has been during his career.
So it seems safe to say this was one (of many) deals Hendry would’ve liked to have had back, even if Pagan is, in fact, injury prone.
Better still, Pagan is also better than the centerfield options the Cubs presently have on its roster. I know there’s high hope for Brett Jackson, but it’s a near lock he won’t be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day 2013.
What’s next for Pagan? He’s a 31-year-old free agent primed to cash-in with a multi-year deal this winter.
It’s unclear if any team will risk Angel’s long history of injuries to pay him top-dollar over multiple seasons. I happen to like his chance of returning to the Giants…say in the 2-3 year range.
As for those unsightly titanium necklaces, Pagan seems to prefer wearing two necklaces when playing.
I figure you could get 13 or 14 around his neck comfortably and let’s say 19 if you really forced the issue.
But when you’ve helped your team to a World Series title with leadoff home runs and sensational defense, not to mention winning free tacos for all of America, you get a free pass to wear as many necklaces as you wish.
The only thing I’d change is that Pagan was wearing his titanium rings with the Cubs.
*Look who steals third in the video below…
Not much going for former Cubs players in the postseason this year.
Aside from the threesome of Angel Pagan, Ryan Theriot & Xavier Nady in San Francisco, the rest are out of the playoffs.
Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto, deserving or not (depending on your Cubs perspective), couldn’t fend off the A’s in Game 162 for the AL West title. Dempster blew an early 4-run lead and was shelled for 5-ER in 3.0 innings. It forced Texas into the AL play-in game, which they lost 5-1 to Baltimore.
Meanwhile, it’s a shame Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson & Jeff Baker couldn’t advance past Atlanta’s play-in game vs. St. Louis. It would’ve been enjoyable to see Maholm make his first-ever postseason start coming off the best season of his career. And who doesn’t root for Reed Johnson?
The same can be said of Mark DeRosa, whose Nationals fell to those same Cardinals in the division series. DeRosa never appeared in the series, but Chad Tracy appeared in all 5-games, going 0-for-4. And Tom Gorzelanny pitched just 0.1 of an inning, allowing one hit.
Sean Marshall appeared in 3-games for the Reds and shined in his 4.0 innings of no-run, no-hit baseball. But the Reds, of course, squandered it 2-0 series lead to lose 3-straight at home against the Giants.
Pagan is arguably having the best postseason for former Cubs while his Giants have advanced to the NLCS. He’s tied with Buster Posey with a team leading 2 HR & 5 RBI through two rounds, in addition to several defensive gems in the outfield.
Theriot and Nady have each appeared in 4-games: The Riot is 1-for-4 with 2 RBI (coming on a bases loaded single in Game 2 of the NLCS) while Nady is hitless in 4 at-bats.
I’ve never particularly enjoyed rooting for Theriot, especially after his back handed comments about the Cubs, and then his world championship spent with the Cardinals.
Pagan, however, has been a pretty good player since leaving the Cubs and joining the Mets before heading to San Fran this year. Go figure the Cubs never found enough playing time for Pagan during his two seasons spent on the North Side (2006-07).
The Cubs have good reason to speak with executive legend Pat Gillick.
The man’s baseball career has been in stark contrast to the Cubs–he’s a winner, plain and simple.
Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle, Philadelphia…he’s built contenders and won at every stop.
Gillick was voted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, enshrined at the Rogers Centre ‘Level of Excellence’ in 2002 and then voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2010.
The Ricketts family, however, is denying reports Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has spoken with Gillick as recently as last week.
From the AP:
-A Ricketts family spokesman denied a report that chairman Tom Ricketts has talked to longtime baseball executive Pat Gillick.
“While Tom respect’s Pat Gillick’s Hall of Fame career, reports of a conversation are unfounded,” spokesman Dennis Culloton said, adding there’s been no contact between them. WSCR-AM in Chicago, citing major league sources, reported Wednesday that Ricketts and Gillick spoke as recently as last week, fueling speculation that the Cubs might be interested in hiring the newly elected Hall of Famer in some capacity.
Ricketts was not available for comment. He gave general manager Jim Hendry a vote of confidence last month and said he’s not interested in bringing someone in to oversee the baseball operation.
You wouldn’t guess it after Wednesday’s effort, but Ryan Dempster has been a serviceable stopper following a Cubs loss this season.
In 16 starts following a Cubs defeat Dempster is (7-3), which is to be expected from the pitcher we call our ace.
But Demps was far from it yesterday afternoon against the Fightin’ Phils–3 innings, 6 runs, 7 hits. Sadly, chances are Dempster will have the same opportunity five days from now–only with better results we hope.
Who the heck is Vance Worley?
The 23-yr-old rookie introduced himself to Chicago with 8 innings of 1-run ball.
His 8 IP is a career high.
His 7 strikeouts ties a career high.
He’s allowed 2 or fewer ER in 10 of 13 starts.
Has an ERA less the 1.00 over his last six outings.
Not bad as a fill-in for Roy Oswalt, eh?
Why is John Grabow still a Cub?
He’s posted an ERA above 8.00 in his last 8 appearances at Wrigley.
Has allowed 4 runs in his last 4 outings overall.
Given up 47 hits in 44 innings.
22 walks vs. 26 strikeouts.
9.9 hits allowed per nine innings.
Why is Chris Carpenter still in Iowa?
Cubs have committed an error in nine straight games–a season high–including two more Wednesday afternoon.
Why the Cubs would move Rodrigo Lopez to the bullpen in favor of Randy Wells is mind numbing.
Lopez has been a serviceable spot-starter tossing three consecutive quality starts, including his victory against Roy Halladay on Monday night.
Wells hasn’t been remotely close to such success, but still keeps his spot in the rotation. Why?
Watched former Cub Angel Pagan send the Mets to victory with a walk-off blast vs. St. Louis on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball. Thing. Of. Beauty!