Getting Kevin Slowey out of Minnesota

The Twins currently have a problem that every team envies: they have more starters than rotation spots. This type of thing usually takes care of itself. Sometimes one of those guys gets hurt. Other times someone performs well below expectations. But however it shakes out, every team in the league would love to have the problem of six starters for five spots. The Twins have that now, and they have Kyle Gibson knocking on the door. They might deal with this via trade. We’ve heard the Francisco Liriano rumors, but those have quieted. Lately we’ve been hearing more about Kevin Slowey.

It’s easy to understand why the Twins prefer to deal Slowey rather than their other five starters. He’s still young and has value in that way, and he’s relatively cheap. That should get them a decent return. He’s also injury prone, which means they might not miss him that much (though that should reduce the return, obviously). The Twins have a few similar pitchers, but Slowey probably presents the best balance between the production he can provide for the team and the value they’d receive in return.

The most damning figure with Slowey is his fly ball rate. For his career that’s a 48.1% rate, but it has risen in each of the last three seasons, peaking last year at 50.6%. Those type of fly ball numbers — third highest among MLB starters in the last three seasons — usually combine well with strikeouts, but Slowey is fringe average in that regard. The one advantage he holds is his home park, Target Field. Its spacious confines help mitigate the fly ball issue, as fewer of them will leave the park. But there is also a drawback: the Twins outfield defense.

Denard Span is easily the best outfielder on the team, which is helpful because he plays the most important outfield position. The guys around him, however, leave much to be desired. There is no defensive measure — not a single stat, not even a sympathetic eyeball — that rates Delmon Young as anything resembling a decent left fielder. Anecdotally he improved a bit in 2010, but of all the defensive stats only UZR bears that out, and even then he’s far below average. Then there is Michael Cuddyer, who plays bad defense wherever he is on the diamond. The Twins sometimes use Jason Kubel to spell him, but he’s just as bad, if not worse. Jason Repko is the only decent corner outfielder on the team, but they won’t play him much because he can’t hit.

To say this causes problems for a fly ball pitcher who allowed a lot of balls in play is an understatement. Slowey is simply a poor match for this team as currently constructed. It’s a shame, really, because if the Twins had decent defenders in the corners Slowey would provide a good fit for Target Field. His primary value comes from his control — he owns a career 1.50 BB/9 — and that will play anywhere. Target Field can help prevent damage on those frequent fly balls. But if the outfielders have trouble running down said fly balls, what is a good fit turns into a poor one. At that point, there’s a good chance that Slowey has more value for another team than he does the Twins.

Even still, the idea of trading Slowey might be difficult to stomach. As Paul pointed out in his season preview, Nick Blackburn is easily the least valuable of the current Twins rotation candidates. But the Twins would have a hard time receiving value in return for him. He is coming off a terrible 2010 season, and still has three years and $13.25 million left on his contract. Scott Baker might get the Twins more in return, but he’s one of two pitchers in the rotation with an above-average strikeout rate. In the same breath, we can eliminate Francisco Liriano from the equation.

If the Twins feel that they can shore up other areas of their club by dealing a pitcher, Slowey does make a degree of sense. He’s not the worst pitcher on the staff, but given his injury history and his poor fit with the current ballclub, he might be of less use to them than to another team. His age and pristine control might make him attractive to teams looking to fill out the back end of their rotations. I do agree with Paul, in that all six of the Twins starters will see time in the rotation this year. But if they’re going to deal one, Slowey appears to be as good a candidate as any.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

28 Responses to “Getting Kevin Slowey out of Minnesota”

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  1. Nate Marcum says:

    I would be thrilled to have the Cardinals take a chance on Slowey and let Duncan try and keep that longball in check. The Cardinals’ biggest problem is lack of tradeable talent without giving up too much in return. But obviously the Cards’ lack of (healthy) SP this year, a trade for a middle of the rotation guy would be great news for StL.

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  2. MFG says:

    A guy can dream, can’t he: Slowey, Hicks, and Kepler for Jose Reyes.

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    • Sven says:

      Dream on.

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    • Joe NP says:

      Reyes is available after the year as a free agent. Why give up so much talent now.

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    • John says:

      Why not have the Twins throw in Mauer while paying all Mauer’s contract while you are at it?

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    • Dane says:

      That would be a rip off. The Mets would easily win that one.

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    • Bob says:

      Could def see Reyes go to the Twins but it would be during the season… forget Hicks but I could see Reyes for 3 pitchers… maybe Slowey, Bullock & a 3rd arm… prob wouldn’t get Hendriks… maybe Salcedo, maybe another kid…

      Otherwise, definitely see the Cards as another logical destination though don’t know if the Cards match up with the Twinkies…

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  3. Barkey Walker says:

    Wouldn’t it be better to trade Delmon Young and get someone who can take a walk and filed his position? Perhaps to a non-saber team that likes high batting average, does not look at OBP, and the manager is okay with fielding mainly terrible fielding outfielders… like the Twins.

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    • adohaj says:

      He would be a great DH for a team that has terrible offense. Mariners?

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    • John says:

      Could Delmon Young and something bring the Twins Stephen Drew?

      That is my dream, a single move improve OF and IF defense substantially and gets rid of Delmon as he becomes overpaid.

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  4. zak says:

    Slowey for Joel Hanrahan is the best thing ive seen proposed. The only position they can really improve upon with a return from just Slowey is the pen he is not going to garner a big enough return to upgrade the weakest spot on the diamond which is short. He might see a few starts as the 6th starter but mostly, barring injury, he is going to be the long man a spot that can be filled by multiple internal options and I would much rather have a flamethrowing setup man than a decent long man. Also there is Gibson ready to contribute along with Bromberg on the cusp which is a lot of starter depth. From the Pirates side Slowey is from the area cheap and has a couple years of control left and fills a spot where they are weak while Hanrahans departure can be easily made up for since Meeks can close.

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  5. Shoeless_Mike says:

    I know it won’t happen but I’d love to see Slowey in Royals blue…

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  6. Job Reffries says:

    All I’ve ever heard about Cuddyer is his cannon arm. In fact, Cuddyer places tied for 3rd in outfield assists from 2006-2010 (check if you want to see for yourself) — and that’s with Cuddyer splitting his time between the outfield, first base, second base, and third base. I do agree with Barkley that it’s time to deal an outfielder, but I would trade Kubel before Young. Kubel is another poor fielding corner outfielder, and with the Twins’ left-hand heavy batting lineup, Young’s right-handed bat is too valuable to lose.Maybe a package incorporating Kubel, an excess starter, and a prospect or two for Drew Stubbs would be a good fit for the Twins.

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    • adohaj says:

      Yea Young is still what 25?

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    • Nick says:

      The Twins need another outfielder like they need a hole in their head. They have plenty of options should they deal Kubel.
      1. Increase Young’s time at DH (perhaps against lefties, so Thome can rest) and promote Ben Revere. That would really improve their speed and defense in the outfield. I would love to see Span move to RF and Revere take over in CF. Of course, that means Cuddyer in LF…
      2. They could leave their current OF with Young, Span and Cuddyer and look at a platoon option for Thome at DH (perhaps right-handed 2B/3B Luke Hughes). This would also leave the door open to promote some of their prospects in 2012, since Cuddyer would be leaving to free agency.

      2012 is going to bring new faces to the Twins outfield since both Kubel and Cuddyer will be eligible for free agency. I could see the Twins going year to year with Cuddyer (allowing them to not rush young prospects Hicks, Benson, Morales or Arcia), but I think Kubel will be gone. With 4 young options in the minors, someone has to make it!

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  7. TonyAngelo says:

    I suspect if they do trade him it will be after the season is a few months old and they have a better idea of their needs.

    It may be that a few starters get injured and they need Slowey to pitch. It could be that the bullpen goes off the tracks and they need some relief help. Casilla or Nishee might not end up worthy of a starting role.

    But they way things are right now they have pieces in place for all of their potential problem areas and would be better off to see how the season develops before making a move.

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  8. Tim says:

    I think it would be kind of weird to trade Slowey because the outfield defense sucks when it’s about to get much better. Cuddyer and Kubel will likely be gone at the end of 2011, and it seems like there’s a good chance Delmon will be the DH going forward. After this year the outfield should have guys like Ben Revere, Joe Benson, and eventually Aaron Hicks, all of whom get very good reviews on the field.

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  9. JFK says:

    Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel for Kevin Slowey, done!

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  10. Bear says:

    Trading for Stubbs isn’t happening. The Reds have even more starting pitcher options than the Twins do. Not that I think the Reds would give up Stubbs anyways, at least not for someone like Slowey.

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  11. nolan says:

    I would be very, very surprised if the Twins trade a pitcher this year. Liriano, Pavano, Baker, Slowey, Duensing as the rotation. Blackburn as long reliever. Gibson when/if one of those guys gets hurt or slumps. Isn’t this a good thing? Shouldn’t they be very happy where they are now?

    Three of their starters (Four if you count Pavano) have had injury problems recently. They have the ideal depth to deal with an injury to one of their starters at this time. Why would they trade away a position of strength? Because Slowey is a flyball pitcher and Delmon Young is a poor defensive left fielder? I don’t see a trade in the cards at all UNLESS someone like the Cards panics and gives the Twins a great offer. The story should be on the team that will give up too much for a pitcher like Slowey, not the Twins looking to make a move.

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  12. Hrhankie says:

    Twins outfield is solid. Liriano for Micheal Young is the trade that should be made.

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  13. larry says:

    Why not Slowey and either L. Hughes or Tolbert for D. Espinosa from the Nats. Espinosa would really help our middle inf. depth and probably would win a starting job. Nats probably not willing to trade Espinosa, but Slowey does look nice in their rotation.

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  14. danny says:

    what about trading morneau,kubel,a couple of first rounds picks some cash,for albert pujolt from the cardinals,he will for ever keep target field full and we will be the perennial american league champions

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    • HatsOffToUs says:

      1. StL doesn’t know what they’d get from Morneau
      2. Kubel is a free agent at the end of the year so he doesn’t have much value to an NL team
      3. You can’t trade draft picks in MLB
      4. Pujols and Morneau have no-trade clauses
      5. Lots of other reasons

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    • Awesome says:

      I love how a Fangraphs post about trading Kevin Slowey turned into a comment about how to acquire Albert Pujols. There’s no escaping the Pujols preseason drama!

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