Possibly the best free agent starting pitcher remaining on the market right now is Carl Pavano. Last night, John Perrotto tweeted that there were rumblings that the Pittsburgh Pirates could jump in on the bidding for Pavano. Rob Biertempfel mentioned today that the Pirates would only be interested in Pavano if the price/years were right.
We don’t know what that means from the perspective of the Pirates, although we do know that Pavano is looking for Ted Lilly money, around three years and $33 M. Pavano lost some leverage when Milwaukee added Zack Greinke, but still has the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals interested, so it would be hard to imagine him ending up with less than Lilly money. The question is, would he be worth that price?
Pavano has been very injury prone during his career, pitching a combined 145.2 innings from 2005-2008. He suffered a shoulder injury in late 2005, had back and wrist injuries in 2006, causing him to miss the entire year, missed the majority of the 2007 season with a forearm injury, then topped it off with Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss most of the 2008 season.
Pavano did return in 2009, pitching 199.1 innings, and while his 5.10 ERA wasn’t impressive, he was on the unlucky side, with a 3.96 xFIP. In 2010 he threw 221 innings, with a 3.75 ERA and a 4.01 xFIP, showing that the 2009 season was mostly a result of poor luck.
Pavano has been about a 3.5 WAR pitcher over the last two seasons. A 1.0 WAR player on the open market this off-season has been worth about $5 M, which makes Pavano worth $17.5 M a year if he can repeat his 2009/2010 success. A three year deal for $11 M a year would be a steal for Pavano’s services if he can replicate those numbers. However, getting that same production out of Pavano for the next three years is far from a guarantee.
Pavano’s injury history is a big concern, especially when you consider that he will be ages 35-37 during a three year deal. If Pavano misses one season, he could still equal the value of the contract with two 3.5 WAR seasons (which would amount to $35 M in value). If he misses more than one full season, it would be hard for him to reach the value of his deal. Considering his injury history, and the fact that he’ll be in his upper 30s for this deal, it’s very possible that he could miss more than one season during this deal.
This is all pretty much a moot point, as the situation will likely play out like the Jorge De La Rosa situation. Even if the Pirates are interested, and even if they make a competitive offer, Pavano would most likely go to the Twins, where he has a better chance of winning. There’s also the Nationals to consider, as they over-paid to get Jayson Werth, and could do the same for Pavano. I don’t see the Pirates over-paying for Pavano, and I don’t see Pavano choosing the Pirates if their offer is anywhere close to the Twins. Even if the Pirates could land Pavano, his injury risk might not make the deal worthwhile, especially for three guaranteed years.