Last year we asked how much Pavano could receive through arbitration, because that was the important question. We knew the Twins would offer it, and the only thing we needed to know was how much he'd get so we could get accurate payroll figures. This year, it's a bit more complicated.
Why the Twins should offer Carl Pavano arbitration
Other than the fact that he gave the Twins 220 innings of good work, he's a Type-A free agent. By offering Pavano arbitration, if he signs elsewhere Minnesota will pick up a first round draft pick (as long as it's not protected) as well as a compensatory pick between rounds one and two.
Offering Pavano arbitration assumes two things. First, it assumes that the market will want Pavano. Other than Cliff Lee, Pavano is one of the best starting pitchers on the market, which plays into this decision. His performance over the last two years, that of an effective innings eater, has a lot of value. With the Twins not likely to go multiple years to retain him, the belief is that he'd decline arbitration to cash in on what could be the last big contract of his career. The second assumption is that, should Pavano accept arbitration, that's not a problem for the Twins' and their payroll, in spite of the fact that arbitration is likely to cost them around $10 million dollars.
By not offering Pavano arbitration, an opportunity is glossed over and a quality free agent is allowed to walk for nothing.
Why the Twins should not offer Pavano arbitration
There's no guarantee that Pavano would be able to find a multi-year offer, particularly from a team he's willing to play for. He's enjoyed his time with the Twins, and if the market dictates that he has to accept a one-year contract it's more than plausible that he'd come back to Minnesota. The problem with that is his $10 million dollar (estimated) contract would likely consume most of the resources available for the winter. If the front office wants to keep their payroll below $115 million while retaining Pavano, it would likely mean no Jim Thome, and no other decent free agents either.
Choosing not to offer Pavano arbitration is a risk because Type-A free agents don't come around that often. This year, the Twins have two. Anytime the Twins have an opportunity to stockpile picks it's going to be tempting to go after it, but the belief in this scenario is based on the beleief A) that Minnesota isn't comfortable paying Pavano the money he's likely to be worth to the market, and B) that his designation as a Type-A free agent will make teams hesitant to sign him because they don't want to lose draft picks, thereby pushing Pavano back to Minnesota. And that throws a wrench in what this team could do over the winter.
Additionally, because so many first round draft picks are protected, Pavano would have to sign with one of these teams to garner a guaranteed first-rounder: Detroit, Colorado, Toronto, St. Louis, the White Sox, Boston, San Diego, Texas, Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and the Yankees. And you can cross our the Yankees. They hate Pavano. There are a lot of teams to choose from there, but there are a lot of teams with protected picks as well.
Which side are you on? Both schools of thought have merit, and there isn't really a wrong answer. Largely your answer will likely depend on...
- Your confidence in the market to offer Pavano multi-year contracts
- Your belief in how much money the Twins have to spend this off-season, or at the very least that paying Pavano $10 million doesn't destroy off-season free agent plans
- Your willingness to risk potentially blowing up payroll limits for draft picks
Where do you sit?