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Carl Pavano: Worth It?

Carl Pavano's Moustache, in all it's glory.

So.  Carl Pavano is on Doug Melvin’s radar.  Pavano had an excellent season in 2010 for the Minnesota Twins, going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA (111 ERA+), 7 complete games, 2 shutouts and a 1.195 WHIP.  Pretty good, right?  Right.  Now that Philadelphia has landed Cliff Lee, Carl Pavano is the top starting pitcher on the free agent market.  Should the Brewers fork up the cash to sign him?

Also, on a side note, why should we even try this season?  Can you imagine a Halladay-Lee-Oswalt-Hamels starting rotation?  That’s like a freaking all-star team.  Seriously.  Good Luck, rest of the NL.

Anyway, that isn’t the point here.  Carl Pavano, right.  Here is the red flag.  He will be 35 years old at the start of his next contract.  It seems extremely likely that he will be offered a 3 year contract by somebody this offseason, be it the Twins, Nationals, or someone else.  If someone offers him a Ted Lilly-esque contract of 3 years and 33 million dollars or so, it would make him a higher paid pitcher than Randy Wolf, who got 3 years and just under 30 million last season.  Seems like a lot of money to give to a 35 year old, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at some similarly aged pitchers that Melvin has gone after in the free agent market the last few years.  First, there is the absolutely awful contract given to Jeff Suppan, who, by the start of his fourth (and final) year, probably wouldn’t have been able to keep his ERA under 5 in AAA.  Suppan got 4 years and 42 million for his services, and failed miserably to deliver on the biggest contract the Brewers ever gave to a pitcher.  He was mercifully cut early in 2010, in the final year of his contract.  Other “elderly” pitchers the Brewers have given contracts to in recent years:

  • David Riske (3 years, 13 million), LaTroy Hawkins (2 years, 7.5 million), and Doug Davis (1 year, 4.25 million) were all given relatively lucrative contracts – Riske for 3 years and Hawkins for 2 – and none of them were able to stay healthy enough to make any sort of impact.  Riske was especially frusturating, going on and off the DL in his 3 years (accumulating only 66.2 innings) and being more or less ineffective while pitching.  Davis, at age 34 made only 8 starts for the Brewers in his return, and may not have a job next year.  Hawkins still has a year left on his contract, so he could still contribute next year, but he is 38 years old and missed almost all of last season.
  • Eric Gagne (1 year, 10 million) stayed reasonably healthy, but pitched pretty horribly.  Given the closer’s role early in the year in 2008, Gagne blew what seemed like thousands of saves and got hit hard enough to be demoted.  He settled down a bit late in the year as a middle reliever, but the numbers were ultimately bad – 10 saves in 17 chances, and a 5.41 ERA (78 ERA+).
  • Trevor Hoffman (2 years, 13.5 million total) delivered one absolutely fantastic year, converting 37/41 saves with a 1.83 ERA and making the all-star team.  But when the Brewers picked up his option in 2010 (at the age of 42), he fell off a cliff, starting out with 5 blown saves in 10 chances and 4 losses, with his ERA reaching double digits before John Axford was called up to save the day.  He finished the season reasonably well as a middle relief option, but the damage had been done.
  • Randy Wolf (3 years, 29.75 million) is probably the most comparable case to Pavano, although he is 2 years younger.  Wolf started rather poorly in 2010, but rebounded nicely and finished the season as perhaps the Brewers most reliable starter.  We will have to wait and see before judging this contract.

As you can see, Melvin’s recent free agent pitching acquisition success rate isn’t so good.  This to me is reason alone to keep away from Pavano.  Also, consider this.  Pavano had a great year in 2004, going 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA and finishing 6th in Cy Young Award voting for the Florida Marlins.  This was a contract year, and it earned him a four year, 40 million dollar contract from the New York Yankees.  Pavano had trouble staying on the field and performed miserably under the spotlight of NYC and the pressure of a big contract.  He was unable to post a positive WAR in 4 years with the Yankees.  Last year, Pavano made 7 million dollars with the Minnesota Twins, but no one really had any real expectations for him.  If Pavano signs another reasonably large contract and is expected to contribute, he could crack again under pressure, just like he did under similar circumstances in New York.  I say it isn’t worth the risk.  Maybe a one year deal with an option, but I don’t think that any multi-year guaranteed contract is a good idea.  I would rather throw Chris Capuano out there.


One Response

  1. I’m going to agree with your overall decision. While it is entirely possible that the moustache will throw another tremendous season, I don’t see the risk worth it. This isn’t a year to risk getting burned again. The fan revolt from a Pavano crash and burn would be far less than the revolt from a could of been great season. Let’s save some of that money for a Weeks extension because I want that man to sucess as a Brewer. Get Cappy or Narvesen in there with a cheaper free agent and hope that Rodgers or Jeffries develops into a big league started toward the middle to end of the season. Also, I want to see Pavano remain a Twin.

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