The Twins offered arbitration to Type B free agent Carl Pavano in order to get a compensation pick in next year's draft when Pavano signed a multi-year deal with another team. Nothing controversial about that move. But, surprise! Pavano wasn't finding a better offer anywhere else, so he's decided to accept arbitration, ensuring that he will be a member of the Twins' rotation in 2010.
Pavano was not a part of my plans for next season, mainly because I see him as an older clone of Kevin Slowey. They're both RH with decent stuff that plays up because of their superlative command. They're going to strike out about 7 guys per 9 IP and give up rather a lot of HR. When healthy, each should be able to keep the team in the game most of the time. In a good rotation, they're the #3 starter.
So, the Twins now have 2 #3 starters. If they had a legitimate #1 & #2, that would be cool - I like a rotation where the #4 is good enough to be a #3 and the #5 is really a #4 (Nick Blackburn). But that's not the situation here. Scott Baker can be an ace - we saw it in the 2nd half of 2008 especially - but he wasn't consistent enough in 2009 to hold that role for me last year. He gave up too many big innings, and he frequently failed to make it deep into games even when he was pitching effectively. He's definitely a #2, but he's a bit stretched as a #1 right now.
But that's the slot he's going to have to step into next season, because the Twins don't have anybody else on the roster who's even close to filling it right now. And with Pavano now certain to make $7M-ish next season, and a rather large raise likely coming Joe Mauer's way, I don't think the Twins will be able to afford anybody else with ace stuff. Even the high-upside/high-risk guys like Rich Harden, Erik Bedard and Ben Sheets will likely be too rich for a payroll that is quickly approaching the $90M mark.
That means the Twins will probably have to stretch either Slowey or Pavano into the #2 slot, and that their #5 starter will be a true #5. It's just not as sexy a rotation under those circumstances. The one thing that could save it is a rebound season from Francisco Liriano. The performance he gave between Rochester and the Twins in the summer of 2008 was easily worthy of a #2 starter. If he can regain command of his fastball, he still gets enough swings and misses to be a force at the front end of the rotation. But that's a big "if." He should certainly get every opportunity to win the final slot this spring, but it's nothing we can plan on.
Another effect of the Pavano development is that it makes Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak even more expendable - er, tradable. The Red Wings' rotation will be littered with back-end starters, many of whom will never get to have a significant impact with the Twins. Let's put together a package of some of the higher-value members of that group and see if we can't turn them into something we're lacking...
Dodgers 2B Orlando Hudson was not offered arbitration, and so his Type A status will not be a hindrance to the team that signs him. Placido Polanco's 3-year, $18M deal with the Phillies sets the market for players of this type. Hudson is a high-OBP switch-hitter who plays above-average defense at the keystone. This is precisely the sort of guy the Twins should be looking for to upgrade their IF. I'd offer him Polanco's deal immediately. Then Punto can keep 3B warm until Danny Valencia is ready, or they can still sign Crede and send Punto back to super-utility land. Get Hudson and call it an offseason.
As the Blue Jays shop Roy Halladay, their primary needs are for high-ceiling up-the-middle guys, particularly a CF and C. If the Twins could be sure Joe Mauer would sign an extension, they could start to build a package around CF Ben Revere, C Wilson Ramos and SP Anthony Swarzak that would have to look pretty good to the Blue Jays. After all, Toronto doesn't want to end up settling for mediocre quantity like the Twins had to do with Johan Santana. I don't think that the Twins could afford to take on Halladay's contract now that Pavano has signed. I just noticed that we've got what they need...