November 3, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Carl Pavano Edition)

To carry-on with the discussions on who the Twins should bring back, Carl Pavano is the next to be discussed. After failing to acquire a starting pitcher at the July trade deadline, most fans grew huffy and puffy at Bill Smith who despite trading for Orlando Cabrera hadn't really done a whole lot to improve the team.

But as Twins fans found out this season, August may be more active than July. The Twins hit the waiver wire hard in August and acquired three pitchers, including Pavano. After establishing himself as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter with the Florida Marlins, the New York Yankees handed Pavano nearly $40 million over four years. But the injury bug hit Pavano and the right-hander threw only 145 2/3 innings for the Yankees over four years.

The Yankees declined an $13 million option on Pavano heading into the 2009 season and he later latched on with the Cleveland Indians who gave him a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He was later placed on waivers in August where the Twins claimed him. To complete the trade, the Twins had to surrender Yohan Pino, which seemed a little steep, but eventually Twins fans supported the deal and most became big Pavano supporters.

Not only did Pavano pitch well against the Detroit Tigers, he also made a great start in the playoffs against the Yankees. Pavano finally started to prove to people that he can stay healthy for an entire season and is an option to sign for more than one year. The Twins loved the influence he had on the young pitching staff and also loved the results they got from Pavano.

With Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn the only pitchers that have really established themselves as mainstays in the rotation, the Twins do have some flexibility with the rest of their rotation. The majority believe that the Twins will have a rotation compiled of both Baker and Blackburn with Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing filling out the rest of the staff. That leaves several internal options that could take that last spot including Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and Francisco Liriano. But the general consensus is that the Twins will look outside the rotation to fill that final spot.

That's obviously where Pavano comes into play. Should the Twins re-sign him and go forward with the same rotation that essentially got them into the playoffs?

Personally, much like in the case with Cabrera, I personally would rather see the Twins attempt to improve the rotation before settling for Pavano. While Pavano is a nice back-end starter, I fear that the Twins will move forward without seriously improving the position that held them back for much of last season.

According to estimates from our friends at, Pavano may very well get at least $6 million a season, which to me isn't the problem. The problem comes when I think of the Twins being in the same position that they were in much of last season; great offense with poor starting pitching. And when I think of that, I see Pavano being at the forefront of the problem.

Despite putting up decent numbers this season, I am not in any way very optimistic about him being the kind of pitcher the Twins need, which is a front-end (#2-type of) starter. While I'm sure Pavano has finally turned a leaf and is truly ready to be a stable starter in a rotation, I think he's still a #4 starter at this point and I think the Twins would be better suited going after a player with more upside.

I sadly don't see John Lackey as a realistic option for the Twins, but guys like Erik Bedard, Rich Harden or Ben Sheets could fit the bill. All of those guys mentioned carry a big warning sign around their neck, but all fit the bill. All three would likely accept one or two year deals as well, which is probably what the Twins are ideally looking for.

And if the Twins are serious about improving the team, maybe a guy like Lackey would be on their radar. The TwinsCentric crew estimates a four-year $56 million being what it takes to nab Lackey. But given the weakness of this year's free agent class, I'm sure several teams will be biding for Lackey's services and we could very well see him get a six year, $80 million deal from someone. But of course, it's anyone's guess at this point.

If the free agent market fails, the Twins could also target a player through a trade. Javier Vazquez's name could come up this off-season while the Braves try to add Major League hitters. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the Twins have the pieces it'd take to acquire Vazquez, at least not without going overboard. Guys like Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo may be more realistic. But I'm not really that giddy about either of those guys either.

But to me, the best way the Twins could improve their rotation will be through free agency. Although I'd like to see the Twins move away from Pavano, I think the Twins will make a serious effort to re-sign him and with that said, I'll be surprised to see him with a different club next season.