Giants retain sparkplug Pagan with four-year deal

Giants retain sparkplug Pagan with four-year deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ultimately, the Giants employed simple logic: They wanted Angel Pagan, and they were willing to abandon their contractual comfort zone to retain him.

The Giants opened the Winter Meetings in productive fashion Monday by signing Pagan to a four-year, $40 million deal. The accord will become official later in the week when Pagan takes the required physical examination.

As San Francisco's center fielder and primary leadoff hitter in 2012, Pagan would have left a considerable void had he departed as a free agent. Bobby Evans, the Giants' vice president of baseball operations, admitted that the Giants didn't intend to offer Pagan a four-year contract. But the five-year, $75.25 million deal Atlanta gave B.J. Upton, another free-agent center fielder, helped establish the length of Pagan's pact. And the Philadelphia Phillies reportedly offered Pagan a four-year deal.

Most importantly, the reigning World Series champions wanted to keep Pagan. Speaking constantly on the telephone with general manager Brian Sabean, who won't attend the meetings due to illness, Evans forged the agreement with Pagan's agent, Greg Genske.

All that talk about the Giants considering other options -- Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki -- turned out to be exactly that. Just talk.

"Our priority was Pagan, from the beginning," Evans said. "To use Brian's term, we 'did our due diligence' in every other avenue, but we focused on Pagan."

Manager Bruce Bochy admitted feeling a sense of comfort after the Giants held onto Pagan, who hit .288 and recorded career bests in runs (95), doubles (38) and triples (15) during the regular season.

"That's a pretty big need," Bochy said. "We needed a center fielder and a leadoff hitter and we took care of both with him coming back."

Pagan, 31, couldn't comment publicly, since the deal won't be finalized until he takes his physical. But his wife, Windy, posted a Twitter photo of her and her beaming husband with a bottle of Champagne, which obviously was about to be consumed in celebration.

Some observers viewed signing Pagan to a long-term contract as risky, given his susceptibility to injuries in previous years. But he played 154 games for the Giants through minor aches and pains in 2012. So the Giants cast aside any qualms they might have had about accommodating Pagan.

"Whenever you're in the market, you have to be prepared to respond to the market at some level, or risk going down to your secondary option," Evans said.

Pagan's triples total established a San Francisco-era franchise record, breaking the mark of 12 shared by Willie Mays (1960) and Steve Finley (2006). That was fitting, since Pagan proved to be one of the Giants' best baserunners since the great Mays, by conventional measures or modern metrics. Pagan led the club with 29 stolen bases, the most by a Giant since Dave Roberts had 31 in 2007. He grounded into six double plays in 659 plate appearances, making him one of the National League's most difficult players to double up.

According to fangraphs.com, Pagan ranked second among NL players with an 8.2 BsR, which measures baserunning efficiency.

"It gave us another dynamic this year," Bochy said of Pagan's basepath wizardry. "I think it changed our club. He's a smart baserunner. He had the ability to steal a base when you knew he was going to steal a base, or take the extra base. He's not afraid to take a risk."

The Giants' search for outfield help may not have ended with Pagan's deal. But their pursuit at least cooled. Evans indicated that Gregor Blanco, who started all 16 postseason games in left field, remains San Francisco's leading candidate to claim that position next year. But the Giants still will consider right-handed-batting complements to Blanco, a left-handed swinger. The Giants are reluctant to play Blanco, a .244 hitter last season, against tough left-handers.

"We'll continue to stay engaged with other options, but I think the focal point is probably more Blanco right now," Evans said, noting that the Giants could explore the Minor League free-agent market, trade possibilities or prospects from their own system, including Francisco Peguero.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.