Friday, February 20, 2009

The 2009 Starting Rotation Part 3A: Carl Pavano

Mark Shapiro felt strongly enough about Carl Pavano's chances for a rebound year that he included in his modest $1.5 million deal a guaranteed spot on the MLB roster, provided he makes it out of spring training in good health. Given his history, that's really not much of a guarantee.

Pavano is considered, very deservedly, one of the great free agent busts in recent history. A $40 million contract gave the Yankees 9 wins and 145 innings over the span of 4 years. Teammates and managers alike questioned his work ethic, and his willingness to work through injuries. Fans booed him walking off the mound with a trainer last season. The media blasted him for refusing a move to the minors late in 2007, to make room for another player on the Yankee 40 man roster, in the heat of a pennant race. He has started a total of 9 major league games since June of 2005.

On the other hand, Pavano is a guy who went 420 innings and won 30 games for the Marlins from 2003-04, including 3 postseason wins, helping bring home the world series win. Yet even before that, injury problems plagued the once high-powered righty. Age, injury, and atrophy have worn down his million dollar arm, and now he relies on control to get outs with a fastball that has fallen into the low 90s. A good slider and change remain in his arsenal, and while he can hit all corners of the strike zone with all of these pitches, none of them are really "elite" pitches anymore.

It's hard to expect much of anything out of Pavano. One can't imagine a 33 year old getting back into the form that had him 6th in Cy Young voting in 2004, especially one coming back from Tommy John surgery. It's hard to imagine he even has the endurance left in his arm to start a whole season, after missing so much time with injury. The best one can realistically hope for is that he can hold down the #3 spot until Jake Westbrook can return mid season, or a strong early performance by some of the tribe's younger arms can push him off the roster. At least it is a low-risk one year deal, based heavily around incentives (it can total out at around 6 million if he starts 35 games and 235 innings). He can be cut loose at any time. Barring a slow prolonged recovery by Jake Westbrook and an abysmal AAA performance by a majority of the Tribe's seven major league ready arms, Pavano will be on a pretty short leash. We would love nothing better than to be proven wrong on this one.

Chubby Indian Says:
85 IP, 3-4, 5.30 ERA, 45 Ks, 30 BB. Pavano does a serviceable job as a starter, but finds himself either out of a job or in a long relief role by the All-Star break.

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