The Minnesota Twins locked up the top remaining free agent on the market yesterday when they agreed to a two-year, $16.5 million contract with right-handed pitcher Carl Pavano. I'm not really here to go into too much detail on the quality of that deal from Minnesota's perspective; it seems like a reasonable deal, although you wonder how guys like Aaron Harang and Jeff Francis had to settle for one-year deals at $3 million or less in guaranteed money.
But one thing has struck me, and it's the apparent common traits between Pavano this offseason and a similar pitcher who signed a comparable deal last offseason, Angels righty Joel Pineiro. Both pitchers basically agreed to the same contract: two years and roughly $16 million, with that salary essentially split between the two seasons. And both pitchers were remarkably similar over their final season preceding free agency, turning into low-walk groundball machines. You have to wonder if Pavano's agent, Tom O'Connell, was using Pineiro as a key point in his arguments for getting Pavano a multi-year deal.
Take a look at their numbers, side-by-side, for those two respective seasons:
Pineiro 2009: 214 IP, 3.49 ERA, 3.68 xFIP, 4.4 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, 3.9 K/BB 61% GB rate, 4.8 fWAR
Pavano 2010: 221 IP, 3.75 ERA, 4.01 xFIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 3.2 K/BB, 51% GB rate, 3.2 fWAR
Pavano missed more bats and ate a few more innings, but Pineiro put up stronger overall numbers thanks to an elite groundball rate and command. Both pitchers kind of came out of nowhere to put up strong numbers; from 2005 through 2008, it seemed like both pitchers were watching their careers fall apart: Pavano made just 26 starts during that period, while Pineiro managed to pitch 600 innings to the tune of a ghastly 5.50 ERA.
When you see all of these similarities, followed up by the reality that they both signed essentially the same contract one year apart, you have to imagine that Pavano's agent was using Pineiro's two-year deal as a baseline for pretty much any negotiations. Teams presumably tried to knock down Pavano's price by pointing out that he's already 35 while Pineiro was just 31 when he signed his deal, although O'Connell probably counterpointed by noting that Pineiro's success came in the NL after struggling a great deal in the AL. And when you're talking about a two-year deal, rather than a three- or four-year pact, age isn't nearly the factor that it would otherwise be.
It's tough to know exactly how the market came together for Pavano given that he's a pretty polarizing pitcher, but I wouldn't be surprised if O'Connell was telling his client at the beginning of the offseason that he'd get at least a Pineiro-like deal.