According to Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe there are three, maybe four, teams still interested in right-handed starting pitcher Carl Pavano:
Pavano elected to go slowly in negotiations and let the market play out, so there was no deal before Christmas. Now what? Well, he remains the top free agent pitcher on the market and will hold out for three years. A lot of teams are interested, including Minnesota, Washington, Texas, and possibly Seattle if it can free up some money.With Brandon Webb signing with the Rangers yesterday evening, we can pull them out of the running for Pavano. They could surprise me and make a run at Pavano (they do have money to burn), but I don't see them being interested in signing another injury riddled right-hander who is on the wrong side of 30. That is, unless he's willing to take a two year deal at a slightly reduced price.
The Mariners don't seem like a great bet either. This is especially true considering I haven't seen any reports indicating the Mariners are even casually interested in bringing Pavano to Seattle. This, of course, doesn't mean they aren't interested. It just means it's less likely to be interested. Furthermore, I'm not sure it's in the best interested of the Mariners to sign Pavano. Currently, they're a rebuilding team with a below average rotation that's projected to be 70-75 win team in 2011. Even with Pavano in the mix, they're still a rebuilding team with a below average rotation. Signing him maybe adds 2-3 wins onto their year end total. If signing Pavano doesn't make them a legitimate playoff contender (and it likely won't), it's probably more prudent for the Mariners to save their money for a rainy day. Until we hear otherwise, we should probably assume the race for Pavano is of the two team variety.
That leaves the Twins and Nationals as the de facto front runners. After throwing $126M and a full no-trade clause at right fielder Jayson Werth, they were rumored to be more than slightly interested in signing this year's premier free agent starting pitcher, Cliff Lee. Lee ended signing with the Phillies, so the money they had earmarked still remains. The Nationals shallow rotation is currently headed up Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis, so obviously, they have a need for another starter. Normally, I would suggest they follow the same path I suggested for the Mariners, but it's clear their not interested in making rational signings--only big splashes. The Twins, knowing Pavano is interested in remaining in the Twin Cities, have a huge edge on their end of the negotiations. Until their hand is forced, they have no reason to offer Pavano a contract beyond two years. If Pavano has any chance of getting a three year contract this year, he'll probably have to convince Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to blink first.
The longer Pavano waits to sign a deal, the more his situation becomes reminiscent of Joel Pineiro's situation from last offseason. The difference between the two situations is that Pineiro was coming off an unlikely comeback season that followed five seasons of ineffectiveness. Pavano, of course, has a two year track record of success after his four year run of ineffectiveness. A few have speculated that interested teams are reluctant to sign Pavano to a three year deal based on his performance during his four year deal with the Yankees. While that might be a legitimate reason, I think teams are far more concerned about giving a three year deal to a player at his age and injury history. In all likelihood, I think Pavano ends up signing a two year contract, especially if negotiations extend beyond the BCS title game on January 10th.