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How Does the Carl Pavano Signing Affect the Twins Rotation in 2011 and 2012?

Signing Carl Pavano to a two-year contract sounds like a pretty good plan to most people, and I'm not going to argue. The contract comes in at just $8 million for 2011 and $8.5 million in 2012 (plus potential for another $500,000 in incentives), which means that the Twins paid significantly less than what Pavano was allegedly looking for when the off-season began. Not just in terms of dollars, but of course the big one, years.

We've already discussed how signing Pavano would knock on through the rest of the rotation for this season, although now we can say with certainty that he's part of the equation. Essentially it seems to boil down to one of two options, at least for now:

  1. Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn round out the top four, with Brian Duensing acting as the fifth starter. Gardy has publicly said he wants Duensing in the rotation, which means Kevin Slowey is the odd man out. While trade scenarios are plausible, it's much more likely that in these circumstances Slowey will be pushed into the rotation as a long man/middle innings guy. Oddly enough I prefer this scenario, because I think that over shorter stints Slowey's strikeout rate could jump and his penchant for wearing down after three or four innings is nullified.
  2. Pavano, Liriano, Baker and Blackburn round out the top four, with Slowey getting the nod and Duensing heading to the 'pen, simply because this is where both of these guys have experience. Or, perhaps more accurately, Duensing has experience in the bullpen while Slowey has exactly four relief appearances as a Major Leaguer compared to 82 starts. This scenario seems the more natural of the two.

While this situation will shake itself out in spring training, what truly strikes me as the interesting effect of the Pavano signing is what happens in 2012. We already know that the Twins have another batch of minor league pitchers knocking at the door in 2011, but after another full year in the minor leagues (and probably a few innings with the Major League team), those guys are going to be that much closer. There are going to be some intriguing choices for the Minnesota front office.

Here's the situation for the primary six pitchers who are currently vying for rotation spots, including their age, in 2012.

Player 2012 Age 2012 Status Signed Through
Carl Pavano 36 Contract 2012
Francisco Liriano 28 Arb 3 2012
Scott Baker 30 Contract 2012 (plus 2013 option)
Nick Blackburn 30 Contract 2013 (plus 2014 option)
Kevin Slowey 28 Arb 2 2013
Brian Duensing 29 Serf Arb-Eligible in 2013

This is a round-about way of showing that the Twins will still have the same log jam in their rotation this time next year as they have this year, except all of their prospects will be a year older as well. In 2012, Kyle Gibson will be 24, and will have spent a year-plus in Rochester. David Bromberg will be 24, and also will have spent a year-plus with the triple-A team. In 2012, Alex Wimmers will be 23, Carlos Gutierrez 25, Liam Hendriks 23, and old familiars Anthony Swarzak will be 26 and Jeff Manship will be 27. Glen Perkins will be 29, and will still be arbitration-eligible as well.

Beau examined the 2012 roster yesterday and I have to agree that this is still pretty far ahead to be looking, because you never know when injury or ineffectiveness or an unexpected trade could make things a bit less claustrophobic. But the picture certainly looks crowded from this distance, and if the Twins feel like they need to give any one of these younger pitchers a chance there's always the possibility that they'll need to give him the room he needs...instead of waiting until things work out for themselvse.