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12/14/10 6:40 PM EST

Pavano now the object of clubs' desires

Right-hander viewed as top pitcher left on the market

MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that Cliff Lee has decided to sign with the Phillies, taking the winter's hottest free-agent commodity off the market, the focus of the starting pitching market will likely shift to Carl Pavano.

Coming off a season in which he posted 17 wins for the Twins and tossed 221 innings with a 3.75 ERA, Pavano has appeared to put himself in an enviable position. He is arguably the best starter left in this year's free-agent class now that Lee is off the market. And having waited for Lee to sign before making his own decision, Pavano might have the advantage now of seeing his own market grow.

"Once the top guy comes off the market, the rest of it starts to pick up and we're just going to continue to evaluate every opportunity," Pavano's agent, Tom O'Connell, said on Tuesday afternoon. "We really don't have a timetable for a decision right now. Once we feel we've found the right situation, we'll act accordingly, but we're just going to continue to take our time."

Pavano and O'Connell met with four teams during last week's Winter Meetings. That included the Twins, Brewers and Nationals.

But with Lee choosing the Phillies as his destination, could some of the other teams who were in the running for the left-handed ace now turn their focus to Pavano in an attempt to bolster their rotations?

The Yankees and the Rangers were the two teams that fell just short of landing Lee. Of course, there won't be any talk of the Yankees pursuing a second go-around with Pavano based on the pitcher's previous disappointing stint in New York. The Rangers, however, are still in need of starting pitching and they've expressed some interest in Pavano. So, it's possible the Rangers could join the mix of teams vying for Pavano as well.

Pavano experienced a career resurgence in Minnesota, going 22-15 with a 3.97 ERA in 44 starts for the Twins after being traded from the Indians in August 2009. Although he had four injury-plagued seasons while in New York from 2005-08, Pavano has proved to be quite durable during the past two seasons in his time with the Twins and Indians. Over that stretch, Pavano went 31-23 and averaged 210 innings a season, making him an attractive choice for a team that wants a veteran innings-eater.

The Twins have recently been labeled as one of the front-runners for Pavano, which is no surprise considering the pitcher's admitted desire to return to Minnesota. But whether that could change if other teams get involved is unknown.

It's unclear if Pavano, who turns 35 next month, has any official offers on the table yet. O'Connell would not say whether he has received any offers and the Twins have stuck with their policy of not commenting on negotiations with any free agents. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said on Tuesday that he had yet to make an official offer to the right-hander, although Melvin said he spoke with O'Connell on Monday.

While the expectation has been that Pavano would wait until Lee made a decision before agreeing to a deal of his own, it doesn't necessarily mean that the pitcher will now be in a huge hurry to finalize a deal. O'Connell acknowledged that some things might change now that Lee is no longer available and so they appear willing to wait and see how the market unfolds in the coming days.

"I think it's a constantly evolving situation," O'Connell said. "Every day can bring something new to the equation. Carl has positioned himself in a very good spot on the market place and we're just going to continue to evaluate every situation and find the one that best suits Carl."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner and follow her on Twitter at kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.