How a trade-deadline acquisition helped to push the Florida Marlins over the top.
Closing on the 2002 trade deadline, the surprising Florida Marlins were 43-41 over the all-star break, and short a few key pieces to a successful offseason run. To address that, they made a deal with the Montreal Expos, giving them Cliff Floyd, Claudio Vargas, Wilton Guerrero, and a cash settlement. In return, they gained Graeme Lloyd, Mike Mordecai, Justin Wayne, PTBNL Don Levinski, and Carl Pavano, who turns 44-years-old today.
Down the stretch for the good guys, the six-foot-five Pavano was 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA over eight starts and 14 relief appearances. Although he surrendered a relatively high 1.459 WHIP and a similarly weak 11.1 H/9, the big righty was worth 0.2 WAR and 106 ERA+ during the two month stretch. The acquisition wasn’t quite enough however to stop the Marlins from sliding to 79-83 for the season.
Along with Brad Penny, Pavano made 32 starts to lead the Marlins, and totaled a team-high 201 innings. He was 12-13 with a 4.30 ERA and 133 whiffs against only 49 walks, and posted a much-improved 1.259 WHIP. Although Pavano was an established major league pitcher at the time, it was his third consecutive full season with a below-average ERA+, with marks of 71, 80, and 98 respectively.
On May 26th of 2003, Pavano faced the 32-18 Expos, his former club, and held them to one run on five hits and no walks in a complete game 5-1 victory. Just 11 days later, he struck out six over eight innings, allowing a run on three hits and a walk in a 4-1 victory against the Anaheim Angels. Pavano, who retired the last 18 batters he faced, was quoted at the Sun-Sentinel by Juan C. Rodriguez:
"I was battling myself the first couple of innings with my rhythm. I had to slow myself down."
Through the postseason, Pavano appeared mostly out of the bullpen in six of his eight appearances. Over 19 1/3 combined innings, he struck out 15 and walked only three, surrendering a total of three runs for a 1.40 ERA to help Miami to their second World Series Championship.
2004 was Pavano’s best full major league season, during which he received his only All Star game invitation. He led the Marlins with 5.8 WAR, going 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 31 starts. He struck out 139 in 222 1/3 innings, with a 1.174 WHIP and a 137 ERA+. He put up his best effort of the season against the Chicago White Sox on June 16th, when struck out eight and walked only one in a three-hit shutout and a 4-0 victory.
"I took the ball, threw strikes and the guys made plays behind me. Credit (pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal) working hard all year with me to keep the ball down. It’s definitely paying off. – Pavano, to Harvey Fialkov in the Sun-Sentinel"
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Florida granted Pavano free agency after the season, and we all got to see him join the New York Yankees. Bad timing on their part, as Pavano struggled to stay healthy and ended up totaling just 26 starts for them over the next four seasons. He was 9-8 with a 5.00 for the Bombers.
Later, Pavano spent half-a-season with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Minnesota Twins for the last three-and-a-half years of his major league career. In 2010 at the age of 34, he led the American League with seven complete games.
When it was all said and done, Pavano finished with a 108-107 record and a 4.39 ERA, one all-star appearance, and one World Series ring.