Ken Rosenthal said last night that the Twins were close to bringing Carl Pavano back for 2011 and beyond. Earlier in the week a few people had said the Pirates might be interested in Pavano for the right price. I had internally translated that to mean, “We’d still like to add pitching and will look at Pavano if the price is reasonable, but we’re probably going in another direction.”
It’s strange; I wanted the Pirates to sign Pavano last winter even though he had racked up a 5.10 ERA with the Indians and Twins, because his peripherals suggested he was much better than that ERA (his 6.64 K/9, 1.76 BB/9 gave him an FIP of 4.00 and an xFIP of 3.96). He accepted arbitration from the Twins, though, and turned around and put up almost the same FIP and xFIP, but instead of going 14-12 with a 5.10 ERA he went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA. As a result, he’s commanding $10+ million a year at the age of 35, and his strikeout rate dipped down to Zach Duke levels last year (that’d be 4.76/9; his xFIP and FIP remained the same because he gave up fewer home runs and fly balls). So I was basically right about Pavano last winter, but now he’s about the last guy I want to see the Pirates sign given his age, price, and peripherals last year.
The Pirates are still coming up in conjunction with Jeff Francis and I think he’d be a much better risk for the Pirates to take. Like Pavano last offseason his peripherals (xFIP 3.94, FIP 3.88, 5.78 K/9, 1.98 BB/9) seem to indicate that he’s recovering well from his shoulder injury, but his gaudy 5.00 ERA leaves some room for concern. Except for his slightly lower strikeout rate, those peripherals look a lot like the Francis that was a good pitcher in 2007. His groundball rate last year (47%) was better than his career rate (43.2%) and his average fastball (87.2 mph) was as good as it’s been since 2005. If the Pirates are going to bring someone else in to take a crack at the rotation, it might as well be a guy that has a chance to be better than people are expecting him to be in 2011. Pavano won’t be, but Francis might be.