January 24, 2012

Twins Notes: Morneau, Slowey, Turpen, Putnam, French, and Tolbert

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune traveled to Arizona to see Justin Morneau's workout routine and wrote a lengthy article about his latest comeback. Morneau revealed that he had concussion symptoms as recently as last month, which is awfully worrisome considering his initial brain injury occurred nearly 18 months ago and he still hasn't begun taking batting practice or fielding ground balls. Here's more of what Morneau said:

I wouldn't say the head's perfect yet ... but what I was able to do today is miles ahead of where I was at this time last year. I've had problems with focus. Your mind kind of wanders, I guess, because your brain's so exhausted from trying to interpret what your eyes are seeing.

Not exactly encouraging with spring training around the corner, and lost in all the concussion concerns is that he also underwent neck, knee, foot, and wrist surgeries in 2011. Christensen writes that Morneau still lacks feeling in his left pointer finger, needs treatment on scar tissue in his knee, and has a big bump on his foot. And oddly the wrist injury has somehow flown under the radar despite being the official reason for his trip to the disabled list in June.

At the time little was said about the actual cause of the wrist injury and that remains true, as Christensen says that "his left wrist began bothering him in May" and "when he returned two months later, the wrist was still a big problem." Morneau eventually had surgery to "stabilize a tendon." And that's about it, except Nick Nelson of TwinsCentric reported way back in June that "Morneau's wrist injury was the result of a locker room tirade after a strikeout."

• Last month the Twins traded Kevin Slowey to the Rockies for minor leaguer Daniel Turpen, dumping him for a marginal pitching prospect following a drama-filled year during which neither side came off looking good. At the time he was slated to be Colorado's fifth starter and Slowey avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $2.75 million contract, but the Rockies later traded outfielder Seth Smith for two potential starting pitchers and decided Slowey was expendable.

Six weeks after acquiring Slowey the Rockies traded him to the Indians, who wanted rotation help in case Fausto Carmona's legal situation in the Dominican Republic keeps him from being approved for a visa. Not only is he returning to the AL Central after the Twins banished him to the NL and the worst possible environment for a fly-ball pitcher, the Rockies managed to swap Slowey for Zach Putnam, who's a better prospect than they gave the Twins to get him.

Putnam is far from elite, but he's a 23-year-old former third-round pick with strong numbers in the minors and Baseball America ranked the right-handed reliever as the No. 10 prospect in the Indians' farm system. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has a lower opinion of Putnam, ranking him No. 20 in Cleveland's system, but still likes him more than Turpen. In fact, you'll be hard-pressed to find a prominent prospect analyst who doesn't have Putnam ahead of Turpen.

So how did the Twins trade Slowey for a marginal prospect only to see him swapped six weeks later for a younger, better prospect? Well, for one thing the Rockies sent $1.25 million to the Indians along with Slowey, whereas the Twins simply wiped him from their books. Beyond that Carmona's legal issues presumably meant the Indians were willing to give up more for Slowey than six weeks ago. And the Twins may have balked at trading him within the division anyway.

Ultimately the odds are against Putnam or Turpen having a significant impact in the majors and it's tough to place a value on how much of a prospect upgrade $1.25 million can buy, but given how the Twins mishandled the situation from start to finish their trading Slowey with his value at an all-time low becomes doubly frustrating when another team got more by letting him sit on their roster for a month. There wasn't even time for Slowey to piss off the Colorado media.

• In trying to figure out how much room the Twins have under their self-imposed $100 million payroll limit my assumption has been that Joe Nathan's buyout was part of the 2012 money. However, according to Christensen the Twins actually view the $2 million as part of "last year's books." If true, that means they should have more than enough payroll room to add a veteran right-handed reliever like Todd Coffey or Dan Wheeler or Brad Lidge or Chad Qualls.

• They won't be among the 25 non-roster players invited to spring training, but Luke French and Brad Thompson are the latest minor leaguers collected by the Twins. French was a decent enough prospect to be traded for a half-year of Jarrod Washburn in mid-2009. He's struggled in the majors with a 5.00 ERA and 79-to-57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 155 innings and got killed at Triple-A last season, posting a 6.27 ERA with 30 homers allowed in 146 innings.

Thompson briefly had some success as a middle reliever for the Cardinals in 2005 and 2006, but struggled after that and the Twins are his fourth organization since 2010. He's still just 29 years old, but Thompson's fastball tops out in the high-80s and his career strikeout rate is 4.2 per nine innings. To put that in some context, Nick Blackburn has averaged 4.3 strikeouts per nine innings. French and Thompson are both destined for Rochester.

Matt Tolbert, who the Twins dropped from the 40-man roster shortly after the season, inked a minor-league deal with the Cubs.

• We're recording a "Gleeman and The Geek" episode tonight, so if there are some questions you'd like to hear answered on the podcast leave them in the comments section.

22 Comments »

  1. Question for the Podcast:

    I have seen Sano play several times in person and have been very impressed with how well he has done for his age. However, there have been whispers from some on his club that he is at least 2 years older than he claims to be which makes his accomplishments in A-Ball much less impressive. I bring this up because Carmona, Tejada, Ortiz, and a laundry list of other DC players have been outed as frauds. Do you think the Twins should trade Sano now before he is outed or just ride the wave and hope he is never arrested?

    Comment by Al — January 23, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

  2. Morneau had a concussion last year, diving for a ball in July. So having concussion symptoms six months later is not unusual. It’s encouraging that he hasn’t had symptoms in over 20 days. Also, perhaps the Twins could have offered Slowey arbitration and later traded him. But they didn’t want to take that risk. Colorado was in the position to take that risk and they were rewarded. I wouldn’t call it mishandling the situation. It was just like deciding to fold with an inside straight, rather than bet higher in the hopes of drawing one card in 13.

    Comment by cmathewson — January 23, 2012 @ 11:14 pm

  3. im getting tired of asking this question. but why the hell wouldnt the twins sign harden instead of any of the other relievers mentioned. if somebody falters they could slot him into the starting rotation. i remember him blanking the the twins quite well last season.. we all know hes very effective when healthy. so limit his innings.

    Comment by bcntwinsfan — January 24, 2012 @ 5:55 am

  4. What former Twin(s) would you like to see back on the team in the future?

    Johan Santana ($25M team option, $5.5M buyout) and Joe Nathan ($9M team option, $500k buyout) could become free agents after the 2013 season.

    Comment by Ben H. — January 24, 2012 @ 6:10 am

  5. Is it me or are the Twins being very cavalier with their lack of Starting pitching depth? Can we really depend on oft-injured Liriano/Blackburn/Baker/Marquis and a pitcher who has luckily held up(Pavano) to stick around all season? Seeing how we got screwed across the board last season, why haven’t the Twins addressed this? They have to know that our pitchers have a track record of injury, and the Slama/Burnett/Duensing combo either didn’t work or is being slated as relief help(our major concern last year). I would have thought that more options would have gotten Spring Training invites by now. Atleast to shore up Rochester, just in case. I wouldn’t say there is quality out there, but as much as it pains me, our starters aren’t of the highest quality either.

    Comment by Dunn — January 24, 2012 @ 8:51 am

  6. My question is why did you doubt me when I told you weeks ago the Twins viewed Nathan’s buyout as an expenditure from last year?

    Comment by Jon — January 24, 2012 @ 9:33 am

  7. I’d still like you and John to talk a bit more about the 40 man roster. When do “known” prospects need to be added? Who is currently on it that really doesn’t need to be, specifically? Why would the Twins add prospects early? I know some of this has been touched on, but I’d like it explained so that an idiot like me can understand it.

    Comment by Zathras — January 24, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  8. Do Canadians have smaller brains and, thus, more space for their grey matter to move around in their craniums. Worst three I can think of are Lindross, Koskie and Morneau. Steve Young had about 8, and Joe Montana beat the Bengals in the super bowl with one. Just saying, more grey matter less cranial sloshing, eh.

    Comment by bcntwinsfan — January 24, 2012 @ 10:01 am

  9. Question:
    How could nobody on the Twin’s medical staff have been let go? Their ineptitude stems way back to when Ryan was still the GM. They have a history of misdiagnosing injuries, and also burning up months at a time, trying to rehab things that eventually led to “tommy john”, or other season ending surgeries. Not to mention last year’s entire debacle, involving multiple, multiple players.

    I would list the names and the years, but your podcasts are long enough.

    Comment by rghrbek — January 24, 2012 @ 10:39 am

  10. Is there some way to restructure his contract to pay out in some sort of deferred comp plan over the next 10-20 years? Paying him his $28 million over the next two is a disaster.

    At this point for Morneau retirement appears to the correct decision from a health standpoint. The prospects of him hitting major league pitching at a consistent level just aren’t very good anymore. But from a personal economics standpoint, why would anyone leave $28 million on the table when all you have to do is ‘not retire’ and show up for Spring Training?

    Also, as requested in previous entries, I really hope you guys touch up on the FSN deal tonight. This appears to me to be a major missed opportunity for the Twins. Easily the most disappointing news of the entire offseason. Maybe you guys can talk me down off the ledge.

    Comment by TMW — January 24, 2012 @ 10:47 am

  11. Question:
    Shortly after listening to your guys podcast discussing Jack Morris’ HOF chances I read an article about Johan Santana’s latest comeback from injury. What do you think he would have to do for the remainder of his career to make the HOF or is 5-6 years of being dominant and 2 Cy Youngs enough?

    Comment by pbrezeasap — January 24, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  12. I second the Morneau restructuring possibility. Turn Morneau into Bobby Bo!

    Seriously for 2013 that $14 million is a hazard, given this $100 mark.

    Comment by Shane Wahl — January 24, 2012 @ 11:43 am

  13. How bad would the 2012 Twins have to be to have Gardenhire fired mid-season?

    Comment by Wade — January 24, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

  14. After reading Morneau’s symptoms I just realized I too have concussion symptoms. All this time I thought the lack of focus was due to stress from a job and raising three kids. Go figure.

    Comment by Bryan — January 24, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

  15. Question for the podcast:

    In light of the big contract the Tigers gave Fielder, what are your thoughts on all the talk of his size affecting his play? Played at least 157 games in all of his full 6 seasons. I get that age will change how his body reacts to his size, but (as a big guy myself), I get tired of reading this, so far unfounded, criticism. Curious to hear your thoughts.

    Comment by NotThatAndyJ — January 24, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

  16. Ah, to be the fan of team that goes out and gets STARS, instead of always passing on them (cliff lee trade anyone……).

    Comment by mike wants wins — January 24, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

  17. What’s the fattest matchup of all-time? Capps vs. Fielder should be pretty entertaining and might even impact shadows on the field.

    Comment by Alex — January 24, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

  18. How sad is it that Nick Punto will probably be the starting shortstop opening day for the Red Sox? Also please discuss the enigma that is Nick Punto, who I for one, wish had never been born.

    Comment by McGivey — January 24, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  19. Question for the Podcast:

    1. Did the Tigers overpay for a new first baseman by giving Fielder a 9 year contract for 214 million?

    2. I assume that the Tigers are the team to beat in this coming season. However, I would have assumed that was the case even before the Tigers picked up Fielder. So how much does Fielder solidify the Tiger’s playoff hopes this year, as well as 5 years into Fielder’s new contract?

    Comment by Adam — January 24, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

  20. If a player is injured, when and how much does insurance typically kick in? I am just thinking that the Twins are so set on $100 payroll, but if Morneau goes down or never plays this season, don’t the Twins recoop at least part of his salary from an insurance rider? Then they could spend on a replacement? I think Kotchman coudl be a very nice fit for the Twins. Great D, decent avarage….thoughts?

    Comment by JMK — January 24, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

  21. Go back to the June 15th posting comments and you will see that I essentially predicted what the “sore wrist” was. Hardly under the radar, though I’m sure they don’t want to talk it up as swinging a bat is going to be wrenching on that repaired wrist/tendon with every swing.

    Comment by JB (the Original) — January 25, 2012 @ 7:06 am

  22. For the record, Morneau did not suffer another concussion last July. He had a return of concussion symptoms, but was not diagnosed with another concussion.

    Comment by Confused — January 27, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

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