That qualifies as settling for Pavano, at least in his mind. At the outset of the offseason, he and his agent were allegedly seeking a three-year deal, and given the dearth of strong starting pitching options in free agency behind Cliff Lee, it seemed feasible that he could manage that. As it turns out, though, teams around the league aren't keen on handing pricey multi-year deals to 35-year-old pitchers with troubling injury histories. Especially not when they have to give up a high draft pick to do so.
The Twins' arbitration offer to Pavano, a Type A, might have been his death knell. Because despite his solid results in 2010, the veteran has apparently drawn almost no interest from teams other than the Twins in free agency. Those with needs in their rotations have looked elsewhere. The general manager of the Nationals, who had been tied to Pavano through recent media reports, downplayed his team's interest earlier this week:
"I hear we are 'the finalist' along with the Twins," said [Mike] Rizzo, acerbically. "We've never spoken to Pavano and we haven't talked to his agent since the winter meetings."The Twins never would have given Pavano three years, and rightfully so. For two, it sounds like they're willing to take the plunge. Fully analyzing this deal is impossible without hearing the financial terms, and it's possible those aren't even finalized -- Rosenthal only said the two sides were "closing in." My guess is that Pavano's salary will end up being around $9 million per year.
Nine million dollars isn't exactly the going rate for stud frontline starters, but it's a significant chunk of change for a team with a stretched budget. That figure would exceed the combined salaries next year for J.J. Hardy and Matt Guerrier, both of whom the Twins could have kept. At that price, the front office would be investing a lot of hope that Pavano can carry his success from 2010 forward into 2011 and 2012, at the ages of 35 and 36.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of reason to believe he's got two more seasons like that in him. Only twice in his 13-year career has Pavano pitched at such a high level, and frankly the way he wrapped up his solid 2010 campaign serves as a perfect reminder of his downfalls.
Over 53 innings in his final eight regular-season starts, Pavano struck out only 20 hitters (good for a Blackburnian 3.4 K/9 rate) while allowing 70 hits and nine home runs. In his one postseason start against the Yankees, he yielded 10 hits and a homer while striking out only three of the 28 batters he faced.
The command is always going to be there for Pavano. He'll always limit walks and hit his spots. And when he's going good, he'll manage to keep the hits and home runs in check while missing a few bats. When he's not going good, like he was late last season and more frequently in a 2009 campaign where he posted a 5.10 ERA, he doesn't do those things. How often can we hope he'll be going good as he moves into his late 30s?
The Twins have watched several good players walk away this offseason, and now it's starting to look like they did it in order to make money available for this deal. It's a risky decision and one that could very easily backfire.
Then again, considering the lack of depth in this young rotation and the gamut of question marks surrounding the bullpen, maybe they had no choice. At the very least, Pavano should be able to eat up innings in bunches if he's healthy. That's the very least the Twins will need from him.