I wanted to get a quick post in regarding the Twins offer of salary arbitration to Carl Pavano before last night’s deadline.
First, I’m not going to criticize the Twins for making the offer regardless of how it turns out. Pavano was not a lights out pitcher for the Twins after his early August acquisition, but he was a stable starter who went 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 73.2 innings. The ERA is a tad on the high side of what you would like to see, but Pavano provided a necessary veteran presence and was far more consistent than most of the Twins young starters, making it through at least 6 innings in 10 of his 12 Twins starts.
When the Twins brought in Livan Hernandez before the 2008 season, I criticized the move — which was justified by the front office as being necessary due to the youth in the rotation and because Hernandez was an “innings-eater”. So, how is this different? Simply put, Pavano has more left in the tank than Hernandez did. While Pavano’s numbers aren’t brilliant, they are good enough that if he accepts, the Twins will know that they are getting a pitcher who will generally give them 6 innings and allow 4 or fewer runs. I’ll take that. And of course, if Pavano doesn’t accept the offer, the Twins get a compensation draft pick. It seems like a win-win for me.
I actually disagree a bit with what seems to be the conventional wisdom that I seemed to be in the comments on the articles I read this morning. A lot of people seem to feel that Pavano will decline arbitration quickly and move on. I’m not nearly so sure. We all know that this off-season is shaping up to be a bit of a drag for free agents, with the word “collusion” already thrown out there by uber-agents trying to spook owners into opening up their pocket books (or at least, to lay the groundwork for the future, whether it be taking the owners to arbitration or simply gaining leverage for the upcoming labor negotiations).
Typically, an agent with a marketable commodity would want as many buyers as possible in the discussion, because that will drive up the cost of the player. How marketable is Pavano, though? I like what he does well enough, but there’s going to be a fairly low ceiling on what teams will pay for his services. Having proved his health, he’ll undoubtedly make more in a base than the $1.5 million he made on last year’s deal (which included a bunch of performance bonuses). But we’re not talking about a guy that is likely to have a bidding war spark up over his services. Teams are likely to give a little on the price and then cut it off, saying ‘we won’t go any higher’. In other words, the value of having multiple teams bidding is not as high here as it is, say, for a guy like Joe Mauer. Pavano is simply more replaceable.
The arbitration process, on the other hand, offers Pavano an interesting alternative. Arbitration quite often provides players with more money than they would get on the open market, because the arbitrators tend to look at previous factors whether than looking to the future (which teams do all the time when deciding how much a player is worth in the future). The arbitrators aren’t likely to take the economy into consideration nearly as much as a team would, for instance. As a result, Pavano would be likely to do quite well in arbitration — and possibly better in negotiations with just the Twins (with the looming threat of upcoming arbitration hearings) than he would in negotiations against multiple teams all likely to value his services at a lesser level than the arbitration process would.
Pavano may very well choose to reject the Twins offer. If I were his agent, however, I would be advising him against it. Pavano enjoyed playing for the Twins, and would likely make more money through arbitration than through regular free agency. For those reasons, I expect Pavano to accept the arbitration offer before Monday’s deadline, and to be wearing a Twins uniform next year.