As Angel Pagan forays into the free agent market, the Giants may have to take the pedal off their pursuit of him and look elsewhere. While general manager Brian Sabean remains upbeat about the Giants’ chances to retain Marco Scutaro, he doesn’t have the same feeling about Pagan, whose drawing a decent amount of interest from the Phillies, most notably.
The term “elsewhere” is extremely broad. Right now, Sabean’s fallback plan appears to be Shane Victorino, whose distasteful 2012 campaign puts him in the back seat to the tier-one center fielders. “Elsewhere” could also mean Josh Hamilton: the same Josh Hamilton that several teams crave, but recoil at the thought of how risky of a pickup he would be given his alarming track record. Eventually, though, some team will roll the dice on the five-time all-star.
Will the Giants be the team that takes the flyer? Probably not. But does Sabean have enough money at his disposal to ink Hamilton to an immense contract if he pleases?
First, let’s assume that Philadelphia’s offer to Pagan is too intriguing to pass up. Therefore, he would presumably be headed back the National League East. Before free agency began, Pagan seemed poised to remain in San Francisco. He was a vital asset to Bruce Bochy’s championship club, leading off and playing a solid centerfield, particularly in the postseason. Everyone within the organization knew that he would surely have the freedom to explore other destinations at season’s end, but losing Pagan just didn’t seem like a problematic topic for the Giants in October.
Over a month later, though, the morale of this fragile situation has changed greatly. No longer is Pagan a “lock” to return, and there are a surplus of indications that point towards him departing.
However, losing Pagan would leave $11 to $14 million that was expected to be spent, unspent. This “Pagan money,” as I’m calling it, was presumably set aside months ago in effort to retain him. On another note, that attests to how confident Sabean was about a month ago. Nonetheless, that would be money they could put towards Hamilton’s lofty demands.
Don’t be mistaken, $14 million wouldn’t be enough to cover all of Hamilton’s annual contract, to be sure. In fact, they would fall about $13 million short considering that the slugger seeks an average annual salary of at least $20 million, though $25 million is a much more realistic proposition for a short-term offer. But it would be a solid start to package with Sabean’s other financial resources.
According to Chris Haft of MLB.com, the Giants can increase their payroll by about $10 million without running into any complications. A $10 million increase would propel their growing payroll to roughly $140 million after 2012’s payroll equaled about $130 million. So this little payroll surge, plus Pagan’s unused money would probably create enough room for Sabean to enroll Hamilton into his budget.
No, I have not forgotten about Scutaro, who is likely to return on a two-year deal. While signing Hamilton would definitely constrict Sabean, he would probably have enough remains to bring back Scutaro on reasonable terms.
Additionally, the Giants can look ahead to 2014 where more payroll flexibility will meet them. Barry Zito’s massive contract comes off the books next year, as does Tim Lincecum’s. So essentially, Sabean would have to grind out the first year of Hamilton’s deal, but after 2013, paying him would become much easier. Perhaps he could dip into next year’s funds knowing that he will eventually be reimbursed.
While certainly speculation, the Giants won’t completely cross Hamilton off their wish list. Because the market for center fielders is inching towards thin, San Francisco may find themselves in a situation where they may have to put serious thought into Hamilton. And if that’s what it comes down to, they clearly have the money to invest in the slugging outfielder.