Is Carl Pavano Worth Bringing Back?

Andrew KneelandSenior Writer INovember 11, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 11: Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins delivers the ball against the New York Yankees in Game Three of the ALDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 11, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Following the acquisition of JJ Hardy, there are two major needs on this Minnesota team. First, and in my opinion the most important, a No. 2 hitter is needed to bat behind Denard Span.

With his new-found power, the Twins desperately need to find a way to get runners on base for Joe Mauer; batting third this past season, Mauer was 103rd in the league in total number of runners on base when he was at the plate. His 19.15 RBI percentage—ninth in the league of those with at least 250 chances—demands that he be given more opportunities.

A player like Placido Polanco, Mark DeRosa, or  even Orlando Hudson would greatly improve the offensive output of the team.

A secondary need of the Twins, though, is a solid starting pitcher. Currently, three rotation spots are occupied: Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn. The fifth spot will likely contain Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins, Francisco Liriano, or one of any number of other minor-league options the Twins have available to them.

A postseason rotation of Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn—while not overly intimidating—could prove capable of winning a series in October. During the 162 games leading up to that (hopeful) playoff berth next season, though, a fourth starter will need to be found.

Obviously, the most desirable option for Twins' fans to dream about would be either a trade for Josh Johnson or the signing of injury-prone ("but not THAT injury prone" ) Rich Harden.

Should both of those options be unavailable for general manager Bill Smith, would the Twins be better off by leaving the starting rotation alone, or would the addition of Pavano actually benefit the club?

According to ESPN's Inside Edge , Pavano was an above-average pitcher in 2009. Sixty-eight percent of batters faced received first-pitch strikes, ten percent above the league average. The scouting report also shows that Pavano had an above-average command of both his fastball and off-speed pitches, as well as extremely efficient outings.

One of the most important flaws in Pavano's game, though—besides being injury-prone—is his fly-ball tendencies. There is no telling how the open-air Target Field will influence that, but the 2010 defensive trio of Young/Span/Cuddyer should scare any fly-ball pitcher.

A telling statistic for Pavano this past season is his .335 BABIP, indicating that he suffered from extreme amounts of poor luck. Also, just five of the 26 home runs Pavano surrendered in 2009 were "no doubters ," meaning the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and landed at least 50 feet past the fence.

Despite an unattractive 5.10 ERA, and the most earned runs allowed in the league, Pavano's wins above replacement (WAR) for 2009 was 3.7, meaning he is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million per year on the free agent market.

Assuredly, no team will be willing to gamble $13 million a year on a player who spent much of '07 and '08 on the disabled list. Counting on Pavano to make even 20 starts in a season would be foolish, but he would be a quality starting pitcher on most teams.

If the Twins are not able to land a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason, bringing back Pavano for a year or two with a reasonable, incentive-laden contract wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Bringing back a veteran starting pitcher capable of winning 15 games would certainly be better than leaving the Minnesota starting rotation alone.