Earlier this offseason, the Colorado Rockies acquired starting pitcher Kevin Slowey from the Minnesota Twins for Daniel Turpen, in what was a quizzical move made by the Rockies. In lieu of Fausto Carmona‘s arrest, the Cleveland Indians decided to shore up their pitching depth by acquiring Slowey from the Rockies for minor league right-hander Zach Putnam. Indians GM Chris Antonetti has denied any correlation between Carmona’s arrest and this trade, but Slowey’s addition adds depth to this bullpen regardless of Antonetti’s true motives.
Putnam is a Major-league ready middle reliever who has a fastball-splitter combo that allows him to induce groundballs at a high rate. The Michigan product has a career minor league strikeout rate of 8.5 K/9 and a walk rate of 2.6 BB/9 as a minor leaguer. He misses his fair share of bats, but Putnam doesn’t have the upside or raw stuff to become anything more than an above-average middle reliever in the Majors.
One of Putnam’s strengths is that he does a solid job of keeping the ball in the park, and another encouraging sign is that his FIP is consistently better than his ERA (3.83 in 235 minor league innings). It’s encouraging, but it doesn’t really do Zach Putnam a whole lot of good. He’s the type of prospect you would expect to be included in a deal for a baseline starter; a decent future reliever with no upside.
Kevin Slowey is four years removed from a 3 WAR campaign in the 2008 season, and he was worth just 0.4 WAR last season in 59.1 innings and missed 50 games with an abdominal injury. He should be able to bounce back next season, but Slowey seems like a 1-2 WAR pitcher at this point who is best served as a back-of-the-rotation arm.
The Cleveland Indians aren’t expecting much more out of Slowey, because the prospect who they traded in this deal is simply a middle reliever who is worth around 0.3 WAR.
The projections provided by RotoChamp and Bill James have Kevin Slowey at about 1.4 WAR, and a simple Marcel system that weighs the last three seasons also values Slowey as a 1.4 WAR starter. He’s probably a little worse than that and might be a tad closer to 1 WAR than 1.5 WAR, but this is still a quality move for the Indians. They traded a future MRP for a starting pitcher who will contribute more to the team in terms of value. Slowey may be a subpar starting pitcher, but there is always the chance that he recollects himself and becomes a league-average starter again.
Meanwhile, the Rockies continue to hoard pitchers and just nabbed another piece for their bullpen. Slowey became expendable after the acquisition of Guillermo Moscoso, and the Rockies turned that extra piece into a usable prospect. Slowey would never have fit in Coors with his groundball rate, but Putnam’s solid GB% makes him an ideal fit in the ‘pen for the Rockies. This move will work out for both teams, but the upside of a bounce-back year for Kevin Slowey means that the value is with the Indians. While the Rockies won this deal in their own right, the Indians “won” it more- but not by much.
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