Friday, January 07, 2011


Earlier this week, I remarked that a return to Minnesota for Carl Pavano was "beginning to seem all but inevitable." As such, I was hardly surprised last night when I read a report from Ken Rosenthal of that the right-hander and the Twins are closing in on what sounds like a two-year deal.

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.


cy1time said...

Pavano gave us a chance to win most every time that he took the mound in 2010. His record those last nine starts was still 3-4. His ERA was bloated by a couple of bad starts when Gardy elected to save the bullpen and let Pavano take the beating. If you're right at $9M a year, the Twins will get their money's worth.

Anonymous said...

Pavano's main worth seems to be that he's the kind of pitcher who can help your team win in the regular season and get into the playoffs, but not a frontline starter who can beat a quality team's 1-2-3 starter. Still valuable, but seems like more of the same for the Twins, but with a higher price. His numbers in September are pretty scary.


Ed Bast said...

I'm still waiting for even scant evidence that the front office recognizes how unacceptable 12 straight playoff losses is and is taking measures to be better prepared to win a playoff series. So far it seems they are prepared to trot out a pitching staff consisting of ace tends to melt down under pressure and and a bunch of finesse pitchers who year in and year out get smacked around in the postseason. They've downgraded their infield defense, cast away 4 or their best relievers, and continue to remain fatally lefthanded through the batting order.

Folks, what am I missing? The front office is dooming the team to repeat the same failures it has been repeating for the better part of a decade. They're like those lab mice that get shocked when they touch a certain food - except that even lab mice are smart enough to stay away from the electrified food after a couple tries.

Anonymous said...

You say this move added depth to the rotation and bullpen but i suspect that this move almost certainly means that slowey will be traded, which for the twins will likely result in a minor league relief that ranks as the diamond back 25th best prospect or some similarly inspiring player. And with their extra slowey money the twins can make a push for redundant, old jim thome. This off season has been a laundry list of misguided moves from the twins. The money they are spending on pavano they shouldve used to extend liriano. Even if pavano is good, which is unlikely, this is a misuse of money.

Peter said...

Last year Smith was the GM who did do all this signing & dealing. This year it seems Gardenhire has all the vetoes. Hudson waved, Hardy traded, Pavano signed. Next in line: Punto will get that deal done later this month.

Dave said...

hey, punto wouldn't be a bad sign at this point. For less money obviously, but we need someone that can step into any skill position and hold his own defensively. Punto was never a bad player, just not a starter and not for the money he was getting.

Kelly Vance said...

I don't understand all the Nick Punto hate. Hey, the guy is no A-ROID. He wa swilling to play anywher the team needed him, 3b, SS, 2b, anywhere. He HUSTLED on every play. He is not a big hitter. Middle infielders rarely are. His glove was solid and he was a gamer.

Championships can be built with guys like Nick. Hustle, guts and desire are under rated these days. Paycheck players -- you can't count on em.

I hope the Twins sign Punto to a minor league contract and invite him to spring training.

Josh said...

Actually Punto HAS been a bad player. He's not an effective hitter, his defense is overrated, his base running has declined, and he's vastly overpaid and overused. At this point, Tolbert provides roughly equivalent value at a significantly lower price (even if Punto takes a 50% pay cut he's overpaid).

But this is really about Pavano. Dumping all the team's available money into Pavano hurts a bit, but we don't know for sure that this is the last move the team makes. A 2-year deal is pretty reasonable for both sides, though I think the dollars are a bit higher than I'm entirely comfortable with. If it clocks in at 9M/per, it's a little high but liveable and relatively low risk. If it's closer to $8M/per then it's a good deal.

Yes, there's risk in a pitcher of his age and history...which is why he only gets 2 years instead of the three he wants. Or the $10-11M per year.

Building for the post-season depends on some other things more than Pavano. Will they sign an impact bat for the bench? Will they be able to resist keeping 12 pitchers?

Rapier said...

Punto was certainly not worth $5 million, but his value is obvious to anybody with more than a 10th grade education and the ability to simply look at raw numbers. A quick search found me, where the writer goes through a few of the numbers that show Punto's (and players like him) value to a team. Go learn something before you decide to post some knee-jerk bash.

Dave said...

Resist keeping 12 pitchers?

I hope to god that they keep a 12 man pitching rotation. I can almost garantee that one of our starters will be hurt/innefective and require being demoted/DL'd. We need a couple guys getting regular MLB time that can step in. I don't know who those guys will be, but what are the odds a guy like Gibson will be called up and put directly into the rotation? I would love to see him in the pen to start the year and let him be the guy to step in when he is needed.

In fact, this is where Punto is most needed. You don't need a 5 man bench when Punto is the backup for three positions. After that its the odd man out outfielder, Butera, and Thome (big assumption). With Cuddy's time at first last year he could easily be the backup guy at first spelling Morneau for 20 games.

Marshall Garvey (MarshalltheIrish) said...

A good move for the Twins and pretty logical as far as having a veteran in the staff is concerned, but I'm not as excited as I feel I should be. Granted the only pitching move that I would have a truly excited reaction to would be acquiring the "sure" ace (like a Lee, Lincecum, Halladay, etc.), and I know that's not going to happen and such a pitcher is hard to find. A two-year deal here works just fine for Pavano and the team.

I second everything Ed said as well. Nishioka signing aside (great player, and an undisputed victory for public relations and team popularity), I don't feel like the Twins are doing anything that indicates they're taking the steps to be a vastly better squad than the one-and-dones we've seen since 2003. I understand the payroll constraints fully, and the organization usually makes more moves closer to pitchers and catchers reporting. But at this moment, the offseason has been pretty underwhelming compared to last year's shopping spree.

My only other hope right now, aside from good bullpen help, is that they have enough to sign Vlad Guerrero or someone of his caliber as the replacement bat on the bench. I would love more than anything for Thome to come back, but considering the money he's seeking it would make no sense to pay that much for a luxury player.

And while the subject of Punto is up, I absolutely do not want to see him back. He's a terrible hitter, getting older, and has been a huge waste of money for a few years now. Besides, the Twins already have a crop of younger bench players that can do the job, and with payroll limitations it would make less sense than ever to pay him again.

That being said, I'll always thank him for being a Piranha, and Game 163 against Detroit...but would love his base-running blunder against NY in the playoffs scrubbed from my memory "Eternal Sunshine" style.

Anonymous said...

I read your blogs pretty regularly, and love your stuff, but you really need to get off the Hardy bandwagon. Hardy provided decent pop at the bottom of the lineup WHEN he was healthy. Just because he had one awesome season with the Brewers a few years ago doesn't mean he will ever return to that form. I agree that they will probably overpay a little for Pavano, but get off the Hardy bandwagon!

art glass trophies said...

Nick Punto is such a good player so I really cant understand why a lot of people hates him. Hes been good to the team every since,

Dave said...

judging current investments on past performance is not always the correct move. Punto was a terrible investment for the price and as a starter. He could be a great investment if you turn those two factors around. Investments are all about price point and expectations.

Nick N. said...

I don't know who those guys will be, but what are the odds a guy like Gibson will be called up and put directly into the rotation? I would love to see him in the pen to start the year and let him be the guy to step in when he is needed.

I don't think you want to start eating into his service time if you can avoid it. He's got one year of pro experience and 15 innings at Triple-A.

In fact, this is where Punto is most needed. You don't need a 5 man bench when Punto is the backup for three positions.

I'm not necessarily opposed to bringing Punto back, but I think it's fair to question whether he's a drastically better option than Tolbert, who's cheaper and covers the same positions.

I read your blogs pretty regularly, and love your stuff, but you really need to get off the Hardy bandwagon.

I don't understand how anything I wrote in this piece could be perceived as Hardy love. All I said was that Pavano's price exceeds the prices of their departed starting shortstop and most oft-used reliever, so his value will have to reflect that.

Josh said...

@Rapier: I'm not just mouthing off on Punto. Even the article you cited as evidence of his quality calls him a terrible offensive player, and the sum result of it put his case as at a replacement-level ballplayer, and most of that presumes high value defensively at 3B & 2B and being at least average at SS. I don't think that's enough to overcome his awful performances at the plate, his increasingly poor decisions on the base paths, and I also think his defensive ability is declining with age (which makes him a worse bet going forward).

Tolbert has similar ability as a hitter, similar ability as a fielder (he can play 2B, SS, & 3B, with his best positions being 2B & 3B) and will do it for far less money. Even if Punto takes a pay cut of $3M...Tolbert is still going to do roughly the same job for half the price. And considering their relative ages, we have every reason to think Tolbert will be more successful this season.

The point is, the Twins shouldn't be spending $1-4M on a utility player, when they can fill the role for $500K without a significant drop-off. The fan graphs blog suggested that Punto has value to a contending team that can't fill that role easily from the minor leagues. The Twins can, so the marginal value makes it a waste of money. I would much rather have Matt Tolbert at $500K for 80-100 games than Nick Punto at $2M for 100-120 games (Punto will get more PT than a true utility player because Gardy likes his game; in reality, this reduces his value)

Dave said...

half the price? Are you piddling with 500k? Even a non-significant increase (which I believe to be an understatement) is worth 500k, give me Punto any day! And yes, I just set the cieling at 1 mil.