The 2009 Twins were hungry to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. The team was good, but not great. Another starter would really help. Cliff Lee was available at the deadline. Cliff Lee was excellent. The Twins should have traded for Cliff Lee. That would have been sweet. Of course, the Twins did not trade for Cliff Lee.
The Trade: BREAKDOWN!
The Minnesota Twins traded a player to be named later (Yohan Pino) to the Cleveland Indians for Carl Pavano.
Pavano was nothing special for the Twins in 2009, but he did give the team savvy veteran innings and he had a memorable mustache. Pavano had an excellent 2010 season, throwing over 220 innings with an ERA under 4 and 17 wins. He was still an innings eater in 2011, but his overall results diminished. In 2012, he was injured and ineffective. That was the end of his Twins career.
Yohan Pino hasn't pitched an MLB inning, but I was sure he was a future ace judging by how upset some people were when he was traded away. He is still kicking around and pitching pretty well for Cincinnati's AAA team.
How did I feel at the time?
Carl freaking Pavano?!? I distinctly remember Paul Allen of KFAN having that very reaction when talking about the trade. Essentially, Allen, and all Twins fans really, wanted the team to make a bigger splash and bring in a bigger name/better pitcher. I get that. However, under the circumstances (waiver trade, early August, not much to offer in the way of prospects/young ready MLBers), the trade made sense. I wasn't elated and I wasn't downtrodden and there is nothing in between.
Why make the trade?
Isn't it obvious? T-shirts. Trading for Carl Pavano leads to better t-shirt sales. Actually, that's untrue. Perhaps the Twins always wanted to have a free mustache giveaway, but needed the right face to attach them to. That's unlikely. In reality, there were baseball reasons to make this trade, according to this ESPN.com story:
Craving help for their starting rotation, the Minnesota Twins have turned to Carl Pavano.
Cravings are tough. It's generally best to just give in to them.
"It's kind of uncharted territory for him, but we'll see how it plays out," Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said. "It's no mystery that our starters have struggled. We think this is an opportunity to add a guy who can hopefully help us out."
Ah, The Mystery of the Scuffling Starters. I think that might be my favorite Choose Your Own Adventure book. Antony was right, Pavano did help. The rotation was super young and he was certainly better than the guy who he replaced:
Francisco Liriano's starting spot has been in question after another poor performance on Wednesday that led to his 11th loss, tied for most in the league.
It wasn't just losses either. Liriano was walking almost five batters per nine innings, he was giving up a lot of home runs and he was wildly inconsistent. Pavano is no Cliff Lee, but next to 2009 Francisco Liriano, he looks a tad like Cliff Lee.
Pavano was pretty excited:
"It's pretty exciting, a move up in the standings," said Pavano, who arrived at Comerica Park to join his new teammates before Minnesota took batting practice.
But, were his new teammates excited to have him? The 2009 Twins had trudged through a challenging season as a team. Who was this new guy to try to horn in on their success and replace one of their own? If only there was a good clubhouse guy to act as a Pavano Liaison:
Pavano and Twins backup catcher Mike Redmond were teammates with the Florida Marlins when they won the World Series in 2003. "He's pitched in some big games and pitched against some good teams," Redmond said. "He changes speeds, not a guy who's going to overpower you. ... He's smart."
Upon completing this sentence, Redmond took all of his clothes off, put TC Bear's head on, turned on the sprinklers, and hit fungos to the Twins' outfielders. As he did every day.
The 2009 Twins were surprisingly good, but the 2009 rotation was awful. The team hadn't made the playoffs in the two previous seasons, after reaching the playoffs in four of the previous five seasons. You can see why the front office would want to do something to improve the team, but not do anything hasty. Trading a 25-year-old AAA pitcher with limited upside for a proven, veteran starter with limited upside is a good move. Honestly, you make that move every time if in the Twins' situation back in 2009.
The 2009 rotation was littered with bad and/or underperforming starters. Only Nick Blackburn posted an ERA+ greater than 100 and he's Nick Blackburn. Think about that for a second, Nick Blackburn was the best starter on a playoff team. Only in Minnesota! Pavano himself only posted a 95 ERA+ in 12 starts, but he gave the team effective innings. He replaced Francisco Liriano, who couldn't even approach what would be considered "effective pitching." It was an upgrade, even if it wasn't exciting. In the end, the Twins made the playoffs after a thrilling game 163 against the Tigers. I doubt the Twins make the playoffs without Pavano.
Who won the WAR?
Pavano with the Twins: 6.1 WAR
Pino with the Indians: nada
WAR won by the Twins!
One Sentence Summary
Carl freaking Pavano was a pleasant surprise.