Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pavano Returns; Surplus of Starters

Yesterday, the Twins re-signed RHP Carl Pavano to a 2 year deal worth $16.5 million. The deal also includes incentives worth up to $500,000, based on innings pitched. Pavano had originally looked for a three year deal at the beginning of the free agent period, but no one seemingly wanted to go that high. The Twins were always the front runner and finally, after much speculation, signed Pavano. Pavano was a horse in 2010 for the Twins going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA, while pitching in a team high 221 innings.

Now that Pavano has returned, the Twins starting rotation now consists of Francisco Liriano, Pavano, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn. And for those counting, that is six starters when a typical rotation consists of five. So now the Twins have a surplus of starters and they still have a few holes in their roster. The solution I would like to offer is simple: Trade one. But the question is, which one do you part with?

Given how well Liriano pitched last year, he will stay. Brian Duensing was pretty valuable after he went into the rotation, so he will stay too. And Nick Blackburn was locked into a long term deal last offseason, so I wouldn't think anyone would want to take on his contract. So that leaves Baker and Slowey as the two viable trade candidates.

There are a few turnoffs when looking at trading for Scott Baker. Only once in his four big league seasons has he turned in a sub 4 ERA. He has been very inconsistent during his time in the big leagues. Although each of the past three seasons he has pitched at least 170 innings. So he can be a valuable innings eater. But the big turnoff is his remaining contract for 2011 through 2013. His salary will be $5 million in 2011, $6.5 million in 2012, and 2013 there is a $9.25 million team option. So clearly if trying to trade Scott Baker, the team needs to have payroll flexibility. And by this point in the offseason, many teams have spent their money already. So the options are limited for trading Baker.

Kevin Slowey doesn't have Scott Baker's big contract. So there is a big plus for trying to trade him. Slowey was one of three Twins to file arbitration numbers on Tuesday. So he will make somewhere between $2-$3 million in 2011. Slowey is known as a control artist. So when he is on, he can really paint the corners. But in 2009, he had wrist surgery on his pitching hand. So in 2010 we saw him try and come back from that. He too was like Baker, very inconsistent. But that can be blamed on the wrist injury. He has played three full big league seasons and he has yet to go beyond 160 innings in a season. But again, that is due to the wrist. But because of his lower salary, the Twins should have better options moving him.

So despite the wrist injury, Slowey is the more valuable pitcher to trade here. I'd rather trade Baker and give Slowey the shot. But Baker's contract really handcuffs the options of where he could go. Some people could say that we should hold on to the six starters and just have one start at AAA and go from there. But with Kyle Gibson making his rapid ascent to AAA last year, I would like to see him get a call up in 2011 if needed. The Twins really need bullpen help. That's why they need to trade one of these starters, so they can at least get one solid reliever in return. Maybe acquire a middle infielder prospect too since the depth there took a hit this offseason. So hopefully the right move can be made with this surplus of starters. Because the Twins really need a move here...

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