Rockies acquire RHP Kevin Slowey from the Twins for a PTBNL
The union of Slowey, an extreme fly ball pitcher, and Coors has the potential to produce many a Bitter Beer Face for Jim Tracy and the Rockies. On the positive side, the 27-year-old has exceptional control. Slowey's 1.4 BB/9 since his big league debut in 2007 ranks behind only Greg Maddux and Roy Halladay among starting pitchers tossing 350+ innings. Colorado could also control the righty for two more seasons through arbitration if they so choose, and Slowey was quite effective for Minnesota in 2008 (three Wins Above Replacement) and 2010 (2.2 WAR). Plus, he does have a minor league option remaining, so he could open 2012 at Colorado Springs if he fails to beat out the likes of Tyler Chatwood, Esmil Rogers and Alex White for a back-of-the-rotation slot.
But there are reasons why the Twins would have likely non-tendered Slowey later this month instead of pay him a projected $2.7 million in arbitration. He's hardly a picture of perfect health, having missed a big chunk of the 2009 season due to wrist surgery and being limited 59.1 frames this past year due to DL stints for shoulder inflammation and a strained abdomen. And Slowey's ultra-aggressive approach comes with a price: lots of fly balls, and lots of slow trots around the bases for opposing batters. Dating back to 2008 (the first year for which there's Pitch F/X data), Slowey has the ninth-highest fly ball rate (48.5 percent) among starters, and he has coughed up 1.4 homers per nine during his career.
Slowey's stuff -- an upper-80s four-seamer and two-seamer, a sweeping mid-70s curve, a low-80s slider and an occasional low-80s changeup -- sits higher in the zone than is the case for most pitchers:
Since '08, 36 percent of Slowey's pitches have been located in the upper third of the zone, 37 percent have hit the middle of the zone, and 27 percent have been spotted low in the zone. The averages for starters over that time frame are 28 percent for high pitches, 33 percent for middle-zone pitches, and 39 percent for low-zone offerings.
Coors might not quite be the pinball machine it once was, but it still increases home runs by 13 percent for left-handed hitters compared to a neutral park, and 17 percent for right-handed batters, according to StatCorner. Slowey has given up a homer 10 percent of the time that opponents have hit a fly ball during his career. Righties pitching at Coors gave up homers 11 percent of the time in 2011. Let's say he pitches 150 innings next year, half on the road and half at home, while maintaining his fly ball rate since '08. We'd expect him to give up about 25 homers, or 1.5 HR/9. Superb control or not, it's hard to be more than competent while allowing that many taters.
Assuming the PTBNL isn't significant, the Rockies didn't risk much to see if Slowey can stay healthy and return to his league-average dart-throwing act. But it's hardly a great match of pitcher profile and park effects.
Dodgers sign RHP Aaron Harang to a two-year, $12 million contract
Superficially, the erstwhile Reds ace appeared to rebound in a big way in 2011. After posting a 5.32 ERA and pitching just 111.2 innings while battling an achy back in his last year in Cincy in 2010, Harang pared his ERA to 3.64 in 170.2 IP for the Padres. Truth be told, precious little changed in the 6-foot-7, 260 pounder's more skill-based metrics. He was an acceptable, if unexciting, starter both years, and his fly ball-heavy ways resulted in a lower home run per fly ball rate in Petco than in Great American Ballpark:
2010: 16.3 K%, 7.5 BB%, 10.9 HR/FB%, 113 FIP-*
2011: 17.2 K%, 8.1 BB%, 9.1 HR/FB%, 119 FIP-
* FIP- is Fielding Independent ERA relative to the league average; 100 is average, and anything above 100 means a pitcher was worse than average
Stripping away more luck-based metrics like strand rate and batting average on balls in play, Harang was 4.20 to 4.50ish ERA pitcher both years, OK for a back-end type but certainly not to be confused with his 2005-2007 zenith with the Reds.
Harang's deal seems to be market-value, as the going rate for projected 1-2 WAR pitchers like Freddy Garcia, Bruce Chen, Chien-Ming Wang and Chris Capuano has been about $4-6 million per year. But at some point, you have to question the sheer amount of green the men in blue have doled out on low-upside vets: Harang, Capuano, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Rivera, Adam Kennedy and Matt Treanor are guaranteed a combined $43 million between 2012 and 2013. With that cash, the Dodgers could have made a big down payment on landing an elite bat or a mega-extension for Clayton Kershaw.