SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Giants clubhouse manager Mike Murphy doesn’t assign lockers at random, and there was no mistaking the designed decision to cluster Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez and Angel Pagan.
How often do three guys traded for each other become teammates?
A year after trading them to the New York Mets for Pagan, the Giants signed Torres to a one-year, $2 million contract to be a platoon outfielder and Ramirez to a minor league deal. Once the right-hander sorts out his visa issue, he’ll try to win the last job in the bullpen.
But Pagan’s return was just as uncertain, though. The Giants stretched themselves to the limit to re-sign their center fielder and leadoff hitter, agreeing to a four-year, $40 million contract in early December.
He arrived in camp Friday with his familiar knit cap, and a fatter wallet.
“My bank account did change, but my hunger and focus for the game did not,” Pagan said. “I want to go out there and be the Crazy Horse each day and just leave my heart on the field.”
If Pagan is the Crazy Horse, what does that make Torres?
“My crazy brother,” said Pagan, as Torres broke into a grin two lockers down. “Another crazy horse in the house, yeah. We’ll be ready.”
They’ve known each other for years and were competitors in the Puerto Rican winter league, but never as teammates. They’ll be on the same side for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and you can expect them to meet in some jubilant, three-sided hip checks in the outfield when the Giants win games.
Pagan said once he signed his deal, he began lobbying second baseman Marco Scutaro to return as well because “I wanted this team to stay the same. I wanted everybody back.”
With Torres and Ramirez, the Giants have a couple of 2010 World Series veterans back, too.
“We need these types of guys,” Pagan said. “They know how to win.”
It certainly counted as a winning offseason for Pagan, 31, who signed his dela shortly after B.J. Upton set the market for center fielders. Pagan’s contract looks like an especially good deal after Michael Bourn, considered by many the top free-agent center fielder on the market, had to settle for a four-year, $48 million deal with the Cleveland Indians that he signed on Monday.
(You can’t say the Giants should regret signing Pagan over Bourn, though. They needed a center fielder and leadoff man, and couldn’t afford to wait out Bourn to put all their eggs in one basket.)
Last spring, Pagan felt pressure to establish himself with a new club. This spring, there will be the “really big” expectations that come with the new contract – especially after a terrific year in which Pagan’s 15 triples broke Willie Mays’ San Francisco-era club record.
And what about the team’s expectations? Pagan had his tongue in cheek while commenting on the perception that the Giants won’t be favorites despite winning two of the last three World Series.
“We’re going to get lucky again, like people say,” Pagan said. “We don’t want to be the favorites. We want to go out there and keep getting lucky like we are.
“When you don’t get the credit, that’s what makes you hungry to prove people wrong.”