The Twins have often been criticized in recent years for the paltry returns they've gotten back when trading away players. We've seen Wilson Ramos, J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young and others flipped for questionable returns, only to quickly boost their value elsewhere. Jose Mijares was non-tendered earlier this offseason because the Twins didn't want to pay him $750,000 through arbitration, and he went on to immediately sign with the Royals for $950,000.
In my mind, the Twins front office has shown a persistent weakness in assessing the value of its own talent.
Kevin Slowey appears to be the latest example. Coming off the worst season of his pro career, Slowey was dealt to the Rockies back in December for relief prospect Daniel Turpen. Six weeks later, Colorado turned around and sent Slowey back to the AL Central, trading him to the Indians on Friday for another relief prospect, Zach Putnam.
Given that the Rockies have loaded up on back-end starters since acquiring Slowey and the Indians are now facing uncertainty in their rotation after "Fausto Carmona" was arrested in the Dominican Republic last week on charges of using a false identity, the move makes sense.
What I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around is that the Rockies were able to get a significantly superior prospect in return for Slowey, despite the fact that he hasn't done anything to raise his value since Colorado acquired him.
Let's compare Turpen and Putnam. The former is a 25-year-old who spent the 2011 season pitching in Double-A, where he tallied more walks (35) than strikeouts (33) over 59 2/3 innings while posting a 4.83 ERA and 1.64 WHIP. The latter is a year younger, but spent last season in Triple-A, where he posted a strong 68-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 innings to go along with a 3.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Baseball America recently ranked
Putnam as the 10th-best prospect in Cleveland's (albeit weak) farm system.
In short, Putnam is a solid prospect who would stand a good chance of factoring into the Twins' bullpen this year and beyond. Turpen is a stagnating minor-leaguer coming off a terrible year, and he didn't receive an invite to big-league camp. He's shuffled between four organizations in the past two years and seems like a long shot to make an eventual impact in the majors.
You can make the case that Slowey was a headache, and that his best days as a pitcher are behind him, and that the Twins won't regret letting him go. But this isn't about Slowey. This is about properly valuing assets and taking advantage of opportunities to infuse the organization with talent -- an opportunity that the front office, at best, failed to take full advantage of here.
Maybe Slowey had to go, but what was the rush to move him in early December? Why not wait until a more motivated buyer than Colorado came along? Perhaps in spring training when injuries pop up and needs arise, potentially leading to a better market?
When the Slowey-for-Turpen swap went down, I was surprised that no club was willing to part with more than a marginal minor-league relief arm for a 27-year-old starting pitcher with a big-league track record, a dominant minor-league résumé and a reasonable price tag. As it turns out, that wasn't the case. The Twins simply acted too hastily and once again cost themselves in the process.