The buzz around the winter meetings is that the Nationals are serious about signing a starting pitcher, and are speaking with representatives for both Carl Pavano and Brandon Webb.
Pavano went 17-11, 3.75 with the Twins in 2010, his best year since his breakout 18-8, 3.00 campaign in 2004, the season that got him his first big free agent payday, four years and $38 million with the Yankees. A series of arm injuries limited his appearances with New York, where he totaled only 26 appearances and went 9-8, 5.00. Not a great investment.
Webb won the NL Cy Young Award in 2006 (16-6, 3.10), and followed up with two more solid seasons in 2007-08, winning 40 games and dropping 17, with a solid ERA barely over three runs a game. He finished second in the NL CY Young balloting both seasons. He made exactly one appearance in 2009, suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery, and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since.
Pavano turns 35 next month. His career ERA is 4.34. He played on a winner last year in Minnesota, a ballclub that was second in the league in fielding. Yes, when healthy, he's hit the 200-inning mark a few times. He's not really ace material in my book, but certainly serviceable.
Webb will be 31 in May. He's a true sinkerballer with terrific command. On baseball-reference.com where it lists "Most Similar by Age" you'll see the names Bob Gibson and Jim Bunning in their 20s. On Pavano's same list you'll see names like Oil Can Boyd, Jake Westbrook and John Lackey. Mean much? Only in the eye of the beholder.
Webb may be the bigger gamble, given his long layoff, but Pavano's history isn't exactly worry-free. In an off-season where starting pitcher-wise, there's Cliff Lee, and then there's everybody else, Webb's degree of excellence stands out.
By the way, neither one of them is much with a bat in their hands, though Pavano did homer twice in 2004.
Webb is a Kentucky boy, so a flight home from D.C. would be a lot closer than he's had in Arizona. He has a history with Mike Rizzo, which may count for something. At 31, he'll likely have more years left than Pavano.
Given my druthers, if I'm going to roll the dice on a free agent starter, I'd go with Webb.
Be thankful it's not my decision.