Strike-throwing machine shut down for surgery

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No, not this strike-throwing machine.

Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey is scheduled for season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which is bad news because a) he’s a good pitcher, b) Minnesota is short on rotation depth, and c) he’s an awful lot of fun to watch.

Drafted out of tiny Winthrop University in 2005, Slowey drew lots of
skepticism as a prospect because his high-80s fastball and lack of
secondary offerings didn’t match the insane numbers that he posted in
the minors.

He never blew anyone away, yet managed a 1.94 ERA and 361 strikeouts
versus just 52 walks in 367 innings as a minor leaguer, including a
1.95 ERA and 116/20 K/BB ratio in 139 innings at Triple-A. While the
Bob Gibson-like ERAs haven’t quite transferred to the majors, Slowey is
26-15 with a 4.39 ERA over 318 innings in the big leagues and has
continued to post ridiculously good strikeout-to-walk ratios.

In fact, with 245 strikeouts and just 50 walks in 318 frames Slowey has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio and the best walk rate of the past 75 years among pitchers with 300-plus innings through the age of 25. Thanks to the miracle of, here’s a look at the all-time leaders in both categories through age 25.

                     BB/9                             K/BB
Atlee Hammaker 1.68 Roy Oswalt 4.00
Bret Saberhagen 1.75 James Shields 3.89
Andy Sonnanstine 1.75 Cole Hamels 3.72
Scott McGregor 1.76 Jose Lima 3.68
Jose Lima 1.78 Huston Street 3.63
Lary Sorensen 1.80 Ben Sheets 3.55
Jim Merritt 1.88 Roger Clemens 3.54
Fritz Peterson 1.88 Andy Sonnanstine 3.51
Paul Dean 1.88 Jim Merritt 3.42

Not only does Slowey sit atop both lists, he blows away the
competition by being 15 percent better than second place Atlee Hammaker
in walk rate and 23 percent better than second place Roy Oswalt in
strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not bad for a guy who averages
just 89.6 miles per hour with his fastball and throws the pitch
two-thirds of the time. Velocity and stuff are nice, but being smart
and throwing strikes helps too.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.