Issue 2 -- PavaNO!!!
Looming even larger than the Jaret Wright deal is the rumored four year deal the Yanks are closing in on with Carl Pavano. The salary numbers I've heard range from $36 Million to $43 Million over that span.I've addressed the Pavano situation elsewhere, so let's just quote from last month's Prospectus Triple Play:
Pavano's a prime candidate to "go Loaiza" on the team that signs him. Esteban Loaiza, as Yankee fans will remember from bitter first-hand experience, was a mediocre pitcher who showed promise and great "stuff" for a long time, and then settled in as a mid-rotation innings-eater from 2000-2002.
The big question for his off-season suitors is: was Pavano's performance this year a sign of greater acedom to come, or just a blip on the screen? Pavano is still relatively young (he'll be 29 in January), has demonstrated the ability to toss 200 innings per year over the past two seasons, and is a Proven Playoff Performer(tm) with a 2-0, 1.40 ERA postseason in 2003 and a high-profile World Series start. Sounds like "Show Me the Money!" time, right?
Not so fast.
[Stats Chart I don't know how to reproduce on my own web page snipped.]
Pavano doubled his previous high WARP1 value in 2004, while maintaining a flat strikeout rate in the mid-5's. Carl had an excellent 2004, but those don't look like the peripherals of an ace pitcher. Pavano may just have discovered a way to become the righthanded Jaime Moyer, but he's going to ask teams for a lot of money to prove that he can repeat this performance. Triple Play's advice: don't open the vault doors, guys, you might just wind up paying Curt Schilling money for Brian Lawrence performance.
Then, in 2003, Loaiza had an improbable, near-Cy Young season: 20-9, 2.90 ERA for the White Sox. Unfortunately for Loaiza (and fortunately, for the White Sox) 2003 wasn't Esteban's walk year. In 2004, Loaiza fell flat on his face. At the end of the season, Loaiza could not best a gimpy Kevin Brown or an ineffective Javy Vazquez for a post-season rotation spot. What looked like a pitcher finally fulfilling his potential in 2003, turned out to be just another mediocre mid-rotation guy in 2004.
Maybe Carl Pavano really has turned a corner. Maybe he won't be bothered by moving to a stronger offensive league, having a worse defense behind him, and being in a more offense-friendly ballpark. I'm just saying there's no evidence to think he can repeat his 2004 performance, and nine or ten million dollars a year will be a bitter pill to swallow if we get the 2003 Carl Pavano, rather than the 2004 edition.
One of the emerging patterns from this off-season seems to be a propensity for picking up guys who have beaten the Yanks in the past, or have come from recent playoff teams -- Pavano pitched well for the 2003 Marlins, Womack was a 2001 Diamondback, Wright beat the Yanks as a Cleveland Indian. Since the mid 90's, the Yankees have benefitted from extreme advanced scouting of potential opponents come playoff time.
I wonder if all that advance scouting is skewing the Yankees selections in the off-season. The Yankees obviously scouted Pavano this way in 2003, and likely scouted both the Braves (Wright) and the Cardinals (Womack) this fall. Likely, all three of the free agents the Yanks have pursued so far have inch-thick dossiers in Tampa. Gene Michael, often mentioned behind the Womack signing, is the Yanks chief advance scout for the playoffs.
I would rather believe that there's a bias towards players that have been abundantly scouted by the Yankee advance machine than credit the other option: that the Yankees are out to get "proven winners" -- like Pavano, Wright, and Womack -- despite the fact that they haven't been terribly good over the past several years.
[By the way, in keeping with the subtitle of this section, other free agents I don't want the Yanks to pick up, such as TiNO! Martinez and Eric MiltOH, NO!]