The San Francisco Giants‘ biggest offseason addition might turn out to be a guy who was there all along.

No, not Matt Cain, though if the right-hander can return to ace-level status after surgeries on his elbow and ankle it’d go a long way toward solidifying San Francisco’s rotation.

Today, though, we’re talking Angel Pagan—center fielder, leadoff hitter and, for the final lap of the Giants’ most recent title run, forgotten man.

Pagan has been a consistent producer since arriving in San Francisco, with the obligatory “when he’s healthy” caveat.

The speedy switch-hitter enjoyed his best season by the bay in 2012, when he posted a .288/.338/.440 slash line with 29 stolen bases and an MLB-leading 15 triples—and got a ring for his troubles.

In 2013, Pagan missed 84 games to injury, and the Giants were, quite literally, a different team without him. With Pagan on the active roster that season, San Francisco went 44-34. Without him, it went 32-54.

Last season, Pagan played in 96 games while battling back problems but was finally forced by pain and medical advice to throw in the towel.

Pagan had surgery on Sept. 25 to repair a herniated disc and wound up watching the Giants’ dramatic Game 7 World Series win from his couch in Puerto Rico, per Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News

“I wish I had a video of myself,” Pagan said, per Steward. “I was going crazy.”

The Giants will jump for joy if Pagan can turn in a full season of productivity. The orange and black managed to hoist a Commissioner’s Trophy without him, but the road back will be much easier with their saluting center fielder in the lineup.

So far, so good. Here’s more from Steward:

Pagan said he feels ‘like never before’ and confirmed manager Bruce Bochy’s communique earlier this week that the outfielder hopes to play 160 games this year after two straight injury plagued seasons that limited to 167 total games.

‘Why not? I’d like to play them all,’ Pagan said before the Giants had their first full-squad workout on Tuesday. 

If that sounds suspiciously like a snip from yet another “best shape of his life” spring training puff piece…well, your skepticism isn’t entirely unwarranted.

Pagan will turn 34 in July. He’s failed to ascend the 100-game plateau two years running due to a faulty hamstring and balky back. And he goes harddiving, crashing into walls, sprinting for the extra base.

“I just know how to play one speed,” he told Steward, “and that’s the way I will keep playing.”

It’s what makes him such a spark plug, but it could also be his undoing. Yes, he’s saying the right things as the Cactus League kicks off; will his body hold up for a 162-game slog?

Those are legitimate questions, and only time and the Giants training staff will tell. For now, though, if we take a swig of the spring-flavored Kool-Aid, it’s possible to imagine Pagan as the impact free agent San Francisco didn’t sign.

Yes, the defending champs inked outfielder Nori Aoki to a one-year pact and acquired third baseman Casey McGehee from the Miami Marlins

But those aren’t the sexy, splashy names fans still drunk on confetti and championship champagne were hoping for, especially after the departure of Pablo Sandoval, the beloved Kung Fu Panda.

Quite simply, a fully functional Pagan would ease the sting of an uneventful offseason.

More practically, having Pagan strengthens the Giants’ bench by allowing Gregor Blanco (or Aoki) to slide into a fourth outfielder role. Add ball-of-energy right fielder Hunter Pence, and suddenly San Francisco has one of the more dynamic outfields in the National League.

Again, until we see Pagan go full throttle in game action, all of this is hypothetical. But for now, at least, there’s reason for hope—an Angel in the outfield. 


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