After missing the better part of four seasons with injuries, Carl Pavano finally returned to the mound as a healthy pitcher in 2009, making 33 starts and providing good value for his teams. Going into the winter in a free agent market that was generally derided for a lack of talent, Pavano figured to be one of the more attractive arms available in free agency.
Apparently not. After finding lukewarm interest from other clubs, Pavano is set to accept the Twins offer of arbitration and will return to Minneapolis for 2010.
Despite the constant fear that he might break down again, this should turn out to be a massive bargain for the Twins. Pavano will now have his 2010 salary determined through an outdated system that will care little about his 4.00 FIP and +3.7 win value from 2009. Instead, he’ll have to build a case for his paycheck around a 5.10 ERA in his first healthy season since 2004. Those are not the kind of numbers that arbiters are going to be particularly impressed by.
So, in all likelihood, the Twins will end up paying Pavano something between $6 and $8 million next year. Even with a market that looks to be paying a depressed rate for wins, that’s still valuing him as a two win pitcher. Even with the health concerns, he’s got a good chance of besting that.
His command is among the best in the league, and he combines the ability to pound the strike zone with solid stuff that can miss bats and keep the ball in the park. He showed last year that he can still pitch at a high level. The question for him will always be health, but a one year deal mitigates a large portion of the risk that comes along with an injury prone arm like Pavano’s.
Having Pavano back at a reasonable salary, along with the acquisition of J.J. Hardy, will strengthen the Twins significantly next year. Without expending much money, they’ve made a couple of moves with legitimate upside and minimal risk. It’s been a good off-season for Twins fans so far.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.