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Updated: January 18th, 2011 8:30pm
Notebook: Pavano deal appears close; Capps overpaid or not?

Notebook: Pavano deal appears close; Capps overpaid or not?

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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After finalizing 2011 contracts with arbitration-eligible players Matt Capps ($7.15 million) and Glen Perkins ($700,000) on Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins are getting closer to firming up the roster heading into spring training.

Delmon Young, Francisco Liriano and Kevin Slowey are the three remaining arbitration players, and Carl Pavano is the lone remaining high-profile free agent being courted by general manager Bill Smith and company.

Indications are talks with Pavano and his agent were temporarily put on hold while the Twins tended to arbitration figures, but the sides have made progress over the past two weeks, and a deal could be getting close.

"We're very optimistic that we're going to be able to get him back," general manager Bill Smith told 1500 ESPN Twin Cities on Tuesday. "I think Carl's taken these last couple of days to consider his options, but I keep hearing that he's texting his teammates. So that's usually a good sign."

Pavano's deal would likely be for two years and between $8-10 million per year.

Young, Liriano and Slowey all filed arbitration salary numbers on Tuesday afternoon, and the Twins -- who also filed salary numbers for the three aforementioned players -- have until February 1 to reach settlements. If not, the cases will go to a judge.

According to the Star Tribune, Liriano filed for $5 million, and the Twins filed for $3.6 million; Young filed for $6.25 million, and the Twins filed for $4.6 million; Slowey filed for $3.1 million, and the Twins filed for $2.3 million.

Teams and players usually settle somewhere near the midpoint.

Twins almost always reach settlements

The last time the Twins were forced see an arbitrator was in 2006 and 2005, both with right-hander Kyle Lohse, who wound up winning both cases.

Prior to that, the Twins won cases against Johan Santana and Matt Lawton.

"Hopefully we all use some common sense and get something where we can get fair deals," Smith said about Liriano, Young and Slowey.

"We went with Santana and it was about as enjoyable of an arbitration hearing as you could ever have. We didn't say anything bad about him, we just said we thought he was reaching too high a little too quickly."

As for the hearings with Lohse, Smith said, "those got a little more acrimonious."

"It's very awkward because the agent has a nice job," Smith added. "He just tells all the good things the guy has done. And the club has the job, unfortunately... You try to keep your focus on comparable players, comparable contracts, comparable contributions. Inevitably, there is some high-spirited conversation sometimes."

$7.15 million too steep for Capps?

The Twins recently watched four free-agent relievers sign with other teams -- Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch.

On Tuesday, the club retained the rights to Capps by agreeing to pay the 27-year-old closer $7.15 million, which begs the question: Would it have made more sense to save that money and keep two of the free-agent bullpen pieces who fled?

Crain's new contract with the White Sox pays him an average of just over $4 million per year. Guerrier will earn approximately $4 million per year with the Dodgers, Rauch will earn $3.5 million with the Blue Jays and Fuentes will reportedly make $6 million per year for two seasons in Oakland.

"One of the big things is that we're very optimistic Joe Nathan's going to be back with us. But we need a closer," Smith said.

"And if Joe has any kind of setback, we need somebody at the end of that game. And probably more importantly, if we have both of them pitching well, we're probably pretty good once we get to that eighth inning."

Capps had a career year in 2010, posting a 2.47 ERA and 3.23 FIP with 38 saves, 59 strikeouts and 13 unintentional walks in 73 innings for the Nationals and Twins. In five major-league seasons, his only clunker came in 2009, when he posted a 5.80 ERA and 4.90 FIP for the Pirates before eventually being non-tendered during the offseason.

In the three seasons prior, however, Capps was extremely effective, which means 2009 was likely the outlier.

In a market where top-level, late-inning relief pitchers make between $4-6 million in free agency, $7.15 million is probably too steep -- even for a pitcher tagged with the somewhat hollow label of "closer."

But on a team with a payroll that will likely surpass $115 million, sweating the $2 million difference for a player the Twins feel like they absolutely need is rather silly.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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