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Updated: January 19th, 2011 10:02pm
Pavano 'had options,' but saw best fit was 'obviously' with Twins

Pavano 'had options,' but saw best fit was 'obviously' with Twins

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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On Wednesday night, the Minnesota Twins officially announced the re-signing of free-agent pitcher Carl Pavano -- a two-year, $16.5 million contract that finally ended a six-week flirtation, dating back to the winter meetings in Orlando.

Pavano, 35, who posted a 3.75 ERA and 4.02 FIP in 221 innings last season, will anchor a Twins rotation that features zero turnover from 2010 to 2011.

"I think it's twofold," assistant general manager Rob Antony told 1500 ESPN regarding signing Pavano. "Number one, it's the leadership. He is definitely the leader of this pitching staff, especially the starters. And number two, he's a workhorse.

"Scott Baker's had some injuries, Nick Blackburn's been a workhorse, but he's had a few (minor injuries). They both had surgery after last season, minor, that we believe they'll be fine with. And Liriano, last year was the first year he gave us a full season. And Kevin Slowey's been on the DL every year of his career... (Pavano), we believe, gives us innings, and can help anchor that rotation."

In the end, Pavano reportedly turned down offers from the Pirates and Yankees -- yes, the Yankees -- after drawing early interest from the Nationals, Brewers, Rangers, Royals and possibly others.

Pavano said in a conference call with local reporters that Jim Thome's recent persuasion helped push him toward the Twins, saying, "he's a good texter."

"My biggest thing was, maybe if I went somewhere else, I don't know if I could replace the guys that I have on this team, or the organization, the front office or the staff," Pavano said in a radio interview with 1500 ESPN. "So those were big factors for me."

"I had options out there," he added. "That's the thing when you're a free agent. I feel like I was pretty consistent for two years, and teams were looking at starting pitching, and teams are going to knock on your door. Fortunately I had some opportunities. I didn't really put a time table on it, I didn't have huge expectations. Obviously I wanted to weigh all my options that I had, and all of the opportunities that were in front of me, and I was able to do that. And the best fit obviously was being with the Twins."

The Twins were bracing for Pavano's market value to match that of Ted Lilly, who signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Dodgers last season. Lilly, like Pavano, is 35 years old, and both pitchers have posted similar ERAs and FIPs over the past two seasons.

"We thought he might get (three years, $33 million) from somebody," Antony said. "And over the winter, a lot of things materialized. Some people went different directions, and some people aren't willing to go that far, or whatever. And through negotiations and through time, you kind of work to a point where he says, 'You know what? What you're offering is fair. It's not what we had hoped to get maybe at the beginning of this process, but what you're offering is fair. It's the place we want to be.' And that's what we wanted to hear."

Talks with Pavano and his agent, Tom O'Connell, began to pick up during the winter meetings in Orlando in early December. The two sides continued to talk throughout December and early January until a deal materialized.

"There's a lot of things to balance," Pavano said. "I have a family that I worry about, as far as bringing up my kids and being in a safe place, so that was one of the most important things. And the second thing is where I've enjoyed my time the most, and I've spent two unbelievable years with some of the best guys I've ever played with.

"And some unbelievable memories. You know, someday when I'm sitting around at a bar having beer with some buddies, these are things I'd share with them -- like closing down the Metrodome the way we did it, winning that division title, coming back from behind. Those are the things that stick in my mind. And Target Field, getting to throw the first pitch in the stadium. It's incredible."

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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