The Washington Nationals are running out of time to revamp their roster for the 2011 season and frankly, they are running out of impact players to sign.

After kicking off the baseball winter meetings by signing Jayson Werth to his historic contract, they have seen the impact of that signing mitigated by a string of failures.

They kicked the tires on Cliff Lee, but say they were never serious. They agreed to a trade that would have brought Zack Greinke to Washington, but the former Cy Young award winner invoked his no-trade clause and became a Milwaukee Brewer the following day.

The Nationals tried to trade for Dodgers first baseman James Loney but that deal fell apart when Los Angeles signed a free-agent catcher, punching a hole in Washington’s prospect offer.

They got a couple of promising kids from Oakland in the Josh Willingham trade and—for whatever it’s worth—signed Rick Ankiel to a one-year deal.

And the Nationals and Orioles and Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche continue to play musical chairs around first base. Money versus length of contract keeps the players spinning. When one signs, the other will go down shortly thereafter.

Look for Derrek Lee to wear the team’s “Curly W” any day now.

And now Brandon Webb, who many believed would sign with the Nationals as sort of a yin to Chien-Ming Wang’s yang (two broken toys ready to again be played with), signed with the Rangers.

Rizzo was a man who believed he could make a splash in the baseball world this offseason; he had the money and knew which players were difference-makers. But for any number of reasons—most bad—the Nationals could be returning home with an empty quiver.

Right now, about the only player of any consequence that remains at the dance is Carl Pavano, currently with the Minnesota Twins. The 34-year-old came through for the Twins last season, going 17-11, with a 3.75 ERA. He wants a three-year deal that could top $30 million before it’s all said and done. 

If the Nationals want to make good on their promise to bring a top-of-the-rotation starter to Washington for 2011, Pavano is about their last chance to do it. Oh sure, there are a few players in the scratch-and-dent department who could—but probably won’t—fill that bill.

Will Pavano? Can Carl Pavano do enough to change the direction of the Washington Nationals, or is the person he would replace just as apt to help the Nationals toward respectability?

Pavano began his major league career in the Nationals organization in the days of “Les Expos.” He came to Montreal from Boston in the Pedro Martinez trade.

In his first five seasons, Pavano had a record of 27-37, 4.71, 10.0/3.0/6.0 and an average of just five wins per season.

He spent the next two years with Florida and did well, averaging 15-10, 3.61 and 8.8/2.1/5.8. But he parlayed those two good seasons into a four-year, $38 million deal with the Yankees, which turned out to be a big mistake by the boys from the Bronx.

Over the life of the contract, Pavano battled injuries and won just nine games with a 5.00 ERA. He missed the entire 2006 season due to injury. In 2008, he went 4-2, 5.77 with the Indians and by 2009 began to look like his old self, going 14-12, 5.10, 10.6/.1.8/.6.6.

However, he did lead the league in earned runs allowed.

Last season, he came back full force and was as good a pitcher as there was in the American League.

Over his 12-year career, he has averaged just 125 innings per season as a starting pitcher. He has allowed almost 10 hits per nine innings. He has excellent control, however, allowing just 2.3 walks per nine. But he doesn’t strike out many batters and doesn’t have that power arm that GM Mike Rizzo covets. He has struck out just 5.7 batters per nine innings in 12 seasons.

Pavano is expecting a multi-year contract and I don’t think it’s a good idea. Over his first three seasons he averaged 112 innings per year. In his second three-year stint, it was 127 innings. Then came 111 innings and finally, over the last two years, 152 innings.

There is nothing in those numbers that would suggest that Carl Pavano would be available over any length of a multi-year deal. And in those 12 career seasons, he has won more than 12 just three times.

Yes, the Nationals will cause a stir in the baseball world if they sign Carl Pavano, but it will be for the wrong reasons. Pavano doesn’t deserve a long-term contract and I hope the Nationals don’t give him one.

Here are Livan Herandez’ numbers from last season:

10-12, 3.66, 211 innings, 9.2/2.7/.4.8


And Carl Pavano’s stats from 2010:

17-11, 3.75, 221 innings, 9.2/1.5/4.8


Livan pitched the same number of innings, allowed the same number of hits per nine innings, struck out the same number and walked one more batter per game. His ERA was one-tenth of a run better.

And Livan got only the most cursory of major league contracts for 2011 while Pavano is looking for $30 million?

It won’t help the Nationals to sign Carl Pavano. They have enough starting pitching now that whoever they throw out there every fifth day has the potential to play as well and has far less chance to see his pitching arm fall off.

Let’s pass on Pavano and look for one more bat, letting the offense carry the team for one more year until Stephen Strasburg returns in 2012.

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