The Waiting Game

23 Dec

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In recent weeks, many Twins fans have become increasingly frustrated with the Twins lack of movement. In many eyes, the Twins are waiting on Carl Pavano to decide if he wants to return to the team before moving forward with other moves. Obviously a commitment to Pavano is not something to be taken lightly. If the Twins sign him, it’s likely going to eat up $9-10 million out whatever their payroll will be. That’s a significant chunk.

However, was waiting for Pavano the right move? Did waiting for Pavano cost them Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier or other free agents that they could have spent more time and energy on?

Obviously none of us know. Only those in the front office know the big picture of the Pavano situation and what effects, if any, have been related.

But Pavano himself has also been playing a waiting game, and to be frank, he has lost big time.

At the onset of the offseason, there was Cliff Lee, Jorge de La Rosa and Carl Pavano. De La Rosa quickly re-signed with the Rockies to a two year, $21.5 million deal that includes a player option for the third year at $10.5 million, and then a team option for 2014. Many thought that would set the market for Pavano. Cliff Lee was in his own stratosphere in terms of years and dollars, but some thought that Pavano should wait for Lee to sign because the teams that lost out on the lefty could fall back to Pavano. Well, since Lee signed with the Phillies, teams have not been knocking down Pavano’s door. Obviously the Yankees won’t go there again. But surprisingly, the Texas Rangers have expressed little interest. One team that showed a lot of interest at the winter meetings was the Milwaukee Brewers. However, they have traded for pitchers Shawn Marcum and then Zack Greinke, so they are likely out of discussion. Rich Harden has signed. And now Brandon Webb is garnering much more attention than Pavano.

So, as of right now, the Washington Nationals continue to show interest, but not for more than one year, and the Twins. There is some belief that the Twins have told Pavano to come to them with the offers that he receives, to give them the opportunity to match. In reality, I now wonder if Pavano actually even has any other options than to return to the Twins.

What the Twins now need to do is be a little more aggressive and give Pavano and his agent a deadline. The Twins need the situation resolved so that they can move on if necessary.

Pavano and his agent may have overplayed their hand, and it’s looking more and more like Pavano will no longer get the type of contract that he may have earlier in the offseason.

Why? Let me count the ways. First, he does have that Type A status hanging over him. Teams do not want to give up draft picks. If the Nationals sign him, they would only lose a 3rd round pick because their first round pick is protected and their 2nd round pick will go to the Phillies for signing Jayson Werth. The Tigers  may be an option, but they would have to give up their first round pick. That factor can’t be minimized. Secondly, Pavano will turn 35 in January. As much as Pavano’s two consecutive 200+ inning seasons likely earned him a multi-year deal, I can’t blame teams for being hesitant. He hasn’t been a beacon of health in his career. He isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He likely will never duplicate, or come close to duplicating his 2010 numbers again. If teams like the Rangers, Angels, Red Sox and others are staying away, there are reasons, and I understand that.

I spent about 20 minutes on Fanatic Jack’s podcast last night, and I bet Jack a meal sometime that both Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey would have better 2011 seasons than Carl Pavanoo. Does that mean that I don’t think that the Twins should bring back Pavano? Not necessarily. But do I think they should overspend? Absolutely not.

The Twins do have options. At least three of their starting five, without Pavano, should be expected to be significantly better. Liriano has room to improve still. And, if they don’t waste spend $10 million on Pavano now, they will be able to 1.) give their internal options first-shot to earn starting roles, and 2.) have plenty of money available in June and July to make moves. That is when Bill Smith has shined. He has made moves the last two years in July and August that have helped the Twins. I like the idea of giving guys one more chance and then finding out midseason what the actual needs are. It might not be starting pitching. It might not even be the bullpen. We don’t know.

Have the Twins overplayed their cards on Carl Pavano? The argument certainly could be made. Have Carl Pavano and his agent played the waiting game too? Absolutely, and it is looking more and more like a game they are losing.

What do you think? What is going to happen? Will the Twins sign Pavano, and if so when, and for how much? And if not, what is the plan? What are the options?

What do you think? E-mail me or leave your comments here.


18 Responses to “The Waiting Game”

  1. Jack Steal December 23, 2010 at 10:49 am #


    Another terrific entry. Keep up the nice work and Happy Holidays.

  2. TT December 23, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    My guess is neither side is over-playing their hand. I suspect Pavano’s agent has a pretty good idea of what a deal with the Twins will look like. To get Pavano to go elsewhere he needs to get a much better deal. If he can’t, Pavano is going to end up a Twin.

    From the Twins perspective, that is just fine. As you point out, they don’t have to dip into the market for an alternative if Pavano goes elsewhere.

    In short, both sides are content to wait and see what other teams do. And neither one is under any pressure to press the other one for a decision.

  3. TT December 23, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    One other thing, I think part of Pavano’s importance is that he creates competition for the last starting rotation spot.

    Its a whole lot easier, and less confidence shaking, to hear that you are losing your spot in the rotation because five other guys are ahead of you, rather than because you are pitching so poorly the manager and coaches have lost confidence in you. Without Pavano, Blackburn, Slowey or Duensing could find themselves in that position if they struggle in spring training and one of the younger guys shines.

  4. mike wants wins December 23, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Two years at $10MM each, with a buyout in year 3 for $3MM to give him an average of $11.5MM per year if he only pitches two years.

    They don’t sign any other player for more than $2MM (one middle reliever, maybe 2).

  5. writingfordigital December 23, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    I understand your position. But I think the Twins have played this right. They have waited for the market to settle out and have not altered their initial offer to Pavano, which is a secret, but which probably is no better than De La Rosa’s, with one option year rather than two. I can live with that. It’s a small price to pay for the workload he’ll give you.

    You say Slowey and Baker will have better years than Pavano, and I question that. Neither eat a lot of innings. Baker is good for about 188 innings if the last two years are an indication. Slowey’s high water mark is 160. Pavano is good for 220 innings. Neither had better ERA or FIP numbers than Pavano in 2010. And the key was the innings: Pavano threw 20% more innings than Baker and 40% more innings than Slowey. If either has a better year than Pavano in 2011 in terms of those three numbers, I’d be surprised. Both? Not a chance.

    You ask whether the money might be better spent on bullpen arms. The minute Benoit signed that ridiculous contract, the writing was on the wall for both Guerrier and Crain. But there are lots of capable relievers left who will cost a fraction of what they cost. With Pavano’s asking price coming down to meet the Twins’ offer, there will be money left over to sign a couple more guys, at least one of which will need to be a MFA. And we have like 12 arms waiting for opportunities as well.

    This is a year to go bargain hunting, when the market for top-end middle relievers has gone crazy. The Twins have already done that with the likes of Diamond, Hoey, Hacker and Jones. I expect other signings as guys start looking for major league jobs with spring training just around the corner. Perhaps Rauch, Dotel or Quals. Maybe another lefty like Choate or even Fuentes. And the Twins have arms coming up in Gutierrez and Bullock, not to mention Neshek and Perkins. There will be some long innings in 2011 as these things get sorted out. But eventually the pen will be OK. It usually is in the second half.

    This time of year is toughest for Twins fans because big-market teams have already made a lot of moves. But the Twins tend to wait it out and get the best value they can, particularly in years when they have a lot of fat contracts they must shoulder. This is one of those years. I’m OK with that.

  6. Disgruntled Guy December 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    Quite the conundrum for the Twins. They don’t have the starting pitching for a deep postseason run; they need more than just Pavano to do that, as the last 2 years have proved. If they don’t resign Pavano the will have a worse rotation than last year, and barring any major moves they won’t go anywhere in the postseason, probably won’t even make the postseason. They are already worse in pretty much every aspect already, so that’s a problem. Then again, if they do resign him they’ll have less money to get less worse in other areas. Plus they’ll probably give him a Cuddy-like deal that will cripple them for 2 more years. So it’ll hurt the payroll beyond this year.

    The team has really backed themselves into a corner this offseason. Think about it: it’s only year 2 of being a big-market franchise, and already the front office has displayed ineptitude in managing a larger payroll. They’ve managed to add payroll while simulataneously getting worse on the field. Incredible.

    • TT December 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

      Incredible? No. Credible? Yes.

      The Twins are a better team than they were last winter after Nathan went down. They won the division by a healthy margin without Morneau or Nathan available for most of the year.

      You win divisions by focusing on the future, rather than the past.

      Were Hudson and Hardy once better players than their replacements? Yes. Is it likely they will be in the future? No.

      Was Crain great for two months last year? Yes. Is it likely he can do that for a full season in the future? No.

      Was Guerrier a solid reliever the last few years? Yes. Is it likely he will be for the next three years? No. He’s on the downside of his career.

      Has Mijares been inconsistent in the past? Yes. Is that likely to continue? No.

      Was Capps a solid closer last year. Yes. Is that likely to continue? Yes.

      The fact is that the Twins have not fulfilled the dreams of some fans that they are going to go sign high-priced celebrities. Instead they have stuck to the formula that has made them successful. That means replacing mediocre, declining players and even some stars, with younger players whose future is ahead of them.

      When they do spend big money on players, they are quite rightly choosing to spend on keeping their core players around, not in filling holes.

      • Disgruntled Guy December 24, 2010 at 11:13 am #

        Again, if you honestly believe a team who lost its 4 best relievers and 2 starting middle infielders (and potentially a starting pitcher and DH) while gaining a slap-hitting completely unproven 2B and an old closer on the downturn of his career coming off Tommy John surgery is better than you have zero credibility. Sorry. You know, it’s all right to be concerned that the club hasn’t done much. You can actually be critical of the org. while still being a fan. It’s all right to believe that they are still good enough to win in the playoffs – I’d disagree, but it’s an opinion. But for you to state the team is better now than in October, well, that’s just patently false, it’s not even a matter of opinion.

      • TT December 25, 2010 at 9:58 am #

        Uh – I am not going to debate statements I didn’t make.

        In any case, you want to claim that a team that has Nathan and Morneau available and Mauer fully health is a worse team than without them, then make that claim. Its pretty clear to me that if the Twins had added two players of that quality/reputation in the offseason no one would be complaining that they hadn’t done anything to improve the team.

        The other thing, is stop inventing things that haven’t happened. The Twins didn’t “lose” their middle infield, the replaced it with younger, and likely better, players. That is an improvement. Casilla hit better than Hardy last year and, if he is consistent, he will be a much better defender. Hudson is an aging middle infielder. Steady, unspectacular and too slow to be in the top of the order. Its possible the Japanese batting champ will fail to exceed even that minimal level of play, but not very likely. Your belief in familiar, aging players is touching. But the Twins have to look to next year and Hardy’s performance four or five years ago isn’t very relevant.

        The Twins didn’t lose their “four best relievers”. Mijares and Capps are as good or better than the players that left as free agents. They area adding one of the best relievers in baseball back into the mix with Nathan. Yeh, he is a question mark. But if he performs anything like he did before, the Twins are a much better team with him.

        Which brings us to the central problem with this discussion. You can’t compare the team that starts the season to the one who ended last season. Opening day lineups are just the starting point. And the Twins are going to start this year ahead of last year in any number of ways. Not the least of those is that there is a long list of young players with one more year of experience.

        But if you really want to look at the Twins team last October, you have to look at the real performance of players, not the ones you imagined based on their past performance over the season. Its not going to be a high bar to do better than a team that went 1 and 5. Or to improve on Crain’s performance during those games or JJ Hardy’s. And yes six games is too small a number to draw conclusions, but that’s why we compare the average team over a season, rather than one moment in time. The team the Twins had in October was not the one that won the division.

    • Cap'n Piranha December 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

      Disgruntled Guy, I’m not sure how the Twins will be worse than last year. Last year they got down years from Span, Kubel, and Cuddyer, and only got half a season from both Valencia and Morneau. 3/5 of the Opening Day starting rotation completely imploded, and one of the top 5 closers in baseball didn’t throw a single pitch. I really don’t buy that all of those things will happen again.

      As for the payroll management side of things, its hard to keep your payroll down when 10% of your total payroll is nothing more than a raise to one guy; or do you think Bill Smith should have let Mauer walk/traded him?

  7. jp December 23, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Scott Baker? He is the most mentally weak pitcher I have ever watched. The only thing he can be counted on is to give up a big lead.

  8. Ross December 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    I dont think the Tigers would have to give up their first rounder, I think the Sox get that for victor martinez leaving.

  9. AM December 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

    Tigers already gave up their first rounder..,for VMart.

  10. Ricky December 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I have to think Pavano REALLY wants to come back to the Twins, for several reasons. I see a two-year deal coming down. Also noted, that Chuck James, formerely of the Braves, was quite a phenom in their system, as well as w/ Braves until rotator cuff surgery. Low era, hits, but high total strikeouts consistently. He may be a LHP surprise if he’s regained his form.

  11. scot December 24, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    I look for guys like Cuddy, Span, and Kubel to rebound and Morneau to be healthy. All the starters need to step up their game and Pavano I think will be back. He seems to do well in this environment and I don’t see much drop off from last season.

  12. JA December 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    I agree with what’s been stated above. Everyone likes names, but talent and an organization who knows how to properly use that talent win. Benoit was a minor league signing a year ago, and now 3 years at 16.5m. The Domborski and the Tigers will soon find out he’s on the wrong side of 30 and previously to last year was mediocre at best. The Twins have done a terrific job this off-season identifying undervalued relief help. The pen will sort it self out, and become a strength. I have full faith in the Twins talent evaluators.
    As for Pavano, the Twins would love to have him back at the right price. If not, they are fully prepared to move on without him. The same goes for big Jim, Thome that is.
    Everyone will talk and talk about how improved the Tiggers and Whites are improved. How the Twins have fallen behind. Just don’t listen. Hands down still the most talented 40 man roster in the division.

  13. R Hobbs December 27, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Within baseball right now there are really two stratas of player’s salaries: those that the Yankees are interested in and everybody else. Pavano is not in the first group (due in large part I suspect to Joe Torre’s surprisingly bitter book ” The Yankee Years”) and thus he will sign with the Twins for a fairly reasonable contract (as these things go anyway).

  14. Cris E January 3, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I posted this over at Lavelle’s blog but I’m impatient and prefer this crowd’s insight:

    I think we know the rotation today looks something like Liriano Baker Deunsing Blackburn Slowey. If Pavano signs is Slowey getting set aside, or does Duensing take his bullpen experience back to a late innings role? Is the team waiting on a signing before muttering about this decision or have thoughts been leaked?

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