Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Pavano contract

Carl Pavano's return to the Twins is finally official, and a bit more team-friendly than I had expected: two years, 16.5 million. Early this offseason there had been expectations of something around $10 million a year.

Still, I'm not a fan of this deal, as regular readers probably know. Not to belabor the points again, but ...

Carl Pavano fell just short of career highs
in wins and innings pitched in 2010.
  • He's 35;
  • He has an extensive injury history (although he has been durable the past two seasons);
  • His strikeout rate, never all that impressive, plummeted last season.

He's a better bet to run off an ERA above 5.00 than under 4.00 in 2011. They don't need to pay $8 million for that.

The Yankees -- with whom Pavano had a miserable, injury-ridden four years -- reportedly made a significant offer (one report said one year, $10 million). I don't know which was less likely, the Yankees bringing him back or him choosing to go back there. But I still think, as I said repeatedly this winter, that the Twins would be better off with the extra draft picks in June than with Pavano in their rotation this season.

Retaining him DOES deepen Minnesota's rotation options. Without him, Plan A was Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn (my ranking of them by ability), with Jeff Manship as the initial Plan B when somebody gets hurt.

I don't regard Pavano as truly better than any of those five, but he's not getting $8 million to work out of the bullpen. Assuming that all six starters are healthy, we can figure that Liriano, Pavano and Baker are locks for the rotation, with the other three duking it out for the other two slots.

Duensing is probably the guy who could most help out of the bullpen, but Slowey is the one I think Ron Gardenhire least likes. 

Meanwhile, Kyle Gibson is a real candidate to force his way onto the staff sometime this summer, next year at the latest. If nobody gets hurt, I sense a trade coming this spring.


  1. According to Fangraphs, Pavano's FIP and xFIP are both right at 4.00, for each of the past two seasons, so I would say he's probably more likely to have an ERA under 4.00 than anything close to 5.00. There's a risk of injury here, but he's not had any problems since having TJ surgery in June 2007. The Twins could have put these resources elsewhere, but they are paying him half of what Ted Lilly got from the Dodgers, which is a comp a lot of writers have used for him.

  2. There's an intangible at work regarding Pavano, Ed. Sure, he could fall flat on his face this year. But he brings something to the Twins pitching staff that they need: an older leader. The guys watched him steel himself and come in to stop some nasty losing streaks last summer. I think they now look up to him, and the fact that he's there, day in and day out, should give a lot of stability to the staff, at least mentally. If he can post similar numbers this season, we will be very glad he signed with the Twins.