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Updated: November 30th, 2010 11:16pm
Pavano, Crain, Hudson decline arbitration; decisions loom for Twins

Pavano, Crain, Hudson decline arbitration; decisions loom for Twins

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Tuesday night was the deadline for arbitration-eligible free agents Carl Pavano, Jesse Crain and Orlando Hudson to accept or decline the Twins' arbitration offers.

It comes as no surprise that all three declined, meaning all three are now free to sign with any team they choose -- no strings attached.

In return, the Twins will receive four compensation draft picks -- sandwich picks for Type-B free agents Crain and Hudson, and a sandwich pick plus the first-round pick of whichever team signs Type-A free agent Pavano.

Of course, there's still a chance any or all three of these players could sign back with the Twins, although Hudson -- who reportedly declined arbitration as part of a gentlemen's agreement with the club -- is the least likely to do so after the Twins obtained the rights to Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Not to mention, even prior to acquiring Nishioka, the Twins were leaning heavily toward letting Hudson walk, according to people with knowledge of the situation.

With the Winter Meetings beginning on Monday, the Twins have several important decisions to make both before and after:

• Pavano, who turns 35 in January, is expected to draw interest from multiple teams, which means the Twins will be forced to enter a bidding war if they want to retain his services. In fact, it's fair to say Pavano may be the second-most attractive free agent starting pitcher after Cliff Lee.

A good salary comparison could be Ted Lilly, who also turns 35 in January, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract extension with the Dodgers.

• Crain, 29, earned $2 million in 2010, and he enters free agency as one of the most appealing right-handed relievers on the market, despite slow starts each of the last two years.

According to Peter Gammons, Crain might be the most sought-after reliever, period, on the market. Gammons said Crain has drawn interest from the Rays, Rockies, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Orioles, Cubs, Nationals, and Blue Jays.

He's likely to sign a two- or three-year deal somewhere. The Twins certainly have interest, but Crain faces a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sign a large contract.

It's possible the Twins could also make an offer to Matt Guerrier, who was not offered arbitration. The Twins are still interested in the right-hander, but not at the $5 million he likely would have commanded through arbitration.

• Thursday is the deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players under team control. At the top of this list is shortstop J.J. Hardy, who earned $5.1 million in 2010 and could command between $6-7 million through arbitration in 2011.

Matt Capps ($3.5 million in 2010), Delmon Young ($2.6 million), Francisco Liriano ($1.6 million), Pat Neshek ($625,000), Kevin Slowey ($470,000) and Alexi Casilla ($437,000) are the other players eligible for arbitration.

Because Capps had a career season and closed out 42 games, his salary could rise quite a bit, but indications are strong that the Twins will tender him a contract.

After tendering contracts on Thursday, teams and players don't actually exchange dollar amounts until January 18. Arbitration hearings begin on February 1, but the Twins traditionally settle with their players prior to that point.

• As for Hardy, specifically, the Twins must choose between multiple directions: They can non-tender him, making the shortstop a free agent with no compensation. They can tender him a contract and retain him as the starting shortstop. Or they can tender him a contract and use him as trade bait.

• Regardless of what happens with Hardy, the Twins have until December 26 to sign Nishioka to a contract.

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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