Cliff Lee’s name is going to be printed way too much in trade rumors over the next week-and-a-half. Meanwhile Cleveland’s other worthwhile starting pitcher is barely being talked about. Yes, it’s Carl Pavano. Yes, he has injury concerns. Yes, his ERA is huge. No, teams shouldn’t shy away from acquiring him for the rest of the season.
There are inherent concerns and risks associated with Pavano like with all other pitchers. Obviously prior injuries seem to plant a giant red flag on Pavano’s shoulder, but the reward could be worth the risk. Pavano’s 5.13 ERA is misleading. His FIP is a crisp 3.59; xFIP is 3.92; tRA is 4.33; and tRA* 4.49 (and remember, tRA is based on the RA scale, not ERA, so when you scale it to ERA those numbers are more like ~3.6-4.2). In words: he’s pitching quite well.
A base salary of 1.5 million can see 5.3 million tacked onto it based on starts and innings pitched. To date he’s made 18 starts and pitched 107 innings. Cots outlines his performance bonuses as:
• starts: $0.1M each for 18, 20, 22; $0.2M each for 24, 26, 28; $0.25M for 30; $0.3M for 32; $0.35M each for 33, 34; $0.4M for 35
• innings: $0.1M each for 130, 140, 150; $0.15M each for 160, 170; $0.2M for 180; $0.25M each for 190, 200, 210; $0.3M for 215; $0.4M for 225; $0.5M for 235
Let’s call the 210+ innings clauses unlikely. That takes 1.2 million off the potential books. 35 starts won’t occur, so there’s another 0.4 million. 33-34? Probably not, so goes another 0.8 million. Just like that, 2.4 million rolls off, leaving his new team with – at most – 2.9 million in performance bonuses and whatever is left from his base salary.
The new team wouldn’t have to worry about forking over a ton of cash if Pavano blows his shoulder or elbow in a few starts. Plus, given his 2.5 WAR to date, he’s almost certainly going to be worth more than his second half salary. Mark Shapiro and company really did a knock up job with those incentives. The reasons to deal him are pretty obvious. A free agent as year’s end, Pavano will not bring back a compensation pick and for reasons already discussed, Pavano is not the best bet for a long-term extension.
With their playoff chances nearly flat-lining, the Indians would be wise to take their chances with Pavano on the trade market; just as a NL team without the chips for Roy Halladay or Lee should inquire on Pavano.