Should the Twins Bring Back Matt Capps?

15 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

According to a tweet on Monday afternoon by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, Twins GM Terry Ryan contacted the Paul Kinzer, the agent of Matt Capps, to express interest in the bringing back the free agent reliever. Judging by the response of several Twins fans on Twitter, many would not be happy if Capps came back. But I do think that the question has to be asked, “Should the Twins consider bringing back Matt Capps?”

Well, first things first, Capps is a Type A free agent, but there is no way that the Twins will offer him arbitration so they would get no draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere. He made $7.15 million in 2011 and in arbitration would likely get a small raise over that number. Clearly he is not worth $7-8 million a season, but that does not mean that he should not come back… at a significantly reduced rate.

There are plenty of really good reasons for a team to want Matt Capps in their bullpen. That’s why there will be several teams talking to Kinzer in the next months.

  • He will be just 28 years old until September of next season. At an age when most relief pitchers are just adjusting to their role in the big leagues, Capps has already spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues.
  • Capps has also been very durable. In his career, he has only been on the Disabled List one time. In 2008, he was put on the DL with bursitis.
  • He has been very productive:
    • ERA by season since 2006: 3.79, 2.28, 3.02, 5.80, 2.47, 4.25
    • ERA+ by season since 2006: 118, 192, 140, 72, 165, 95.
    • WHIP by season since 2006: 1.15, 1.01, 0.97, 1.66, 1.26, 1.20
  • He has terrific control:
    • BB/9 by season since 2006: 1.3, 1.8, 0.8, 2.8, 2.1, 1.8
  • Baseball-Reference.com’s Similarity Score says the pitcher that he is most similar to is Heath Bell who is also a free agent, one that is about to make a lot of money as a closer.

Obviously his 2009 season was a well-documented disappointment for Capps, one that he certainly overcame in 2010 by putting together his fourth very good season in five seasons. 2011 was very disappointing as he was given a shot at the closer’s role when Joe Nathan gave it back and was unable to keep it. His 2011 season was just so different from his previous five full big league seasons in a couple of ways of note.

  • K/9 by season since 2006: 6.2, 7.3, 6.5, 7.6, 7.3, 4.7
  • Contact % by season since 2006: 82.1%, 81.9%, 82.2% 81.6%, 81.4%, 86.1%

Capps has never really been a prototypical closer because of his lack of strikeouts. He doesn’t have that intimidation factor which is found with K/9 of 9.0 or greater. If I was a GM, I would never bring in Capps as a closer. Again, that does not mean he can’t be a valuable reliever.

Consider last year, Matt Guerrier was a Type A free agent that the Twins decided not to offer arbitration to. Instead, he signed a 3 year contract with the Dodgers for about $12 million. Like Capps, Guerrier is not a strikeout pitcher, never recording more than 7.0 K/9. Guerrier generally had decent control, though not as good as Capps. In six full seasons with the Twins, Guerrier posted an ERA above 3.39 just once (a 5.19 ERA in a rough 2008 season). Capps probably has the ability to make some extra dollars (than Guerrier) because of all of the saves (124) he has racked up in his career. Capps also is four years younger at his free agency than Guerrier was. Again, Guerrier got three years and $12 million. Capps could very easily get that, and probably a little bit more if you use that comp.

2011 was a tough year for Capps. He lost the closer’s role. Twins fans lost all faith in him. Ron Gardenhire had to keep pitching him because he didn’t have a ton of options. He was used in various roles. He was used a lot. Although he didn’t go on the Disabled List, there is no question that he was less than 100% more of the year.

Since Terry Ryan took over a week ago as the Twins GM, he has been strongly stating that one of his biggest jobs this offseason is to improve the Twins bullpen. Mr. Ryan will need to ask himself in Matt Capps can be a part of the bullpen improvement going forward, or if he has other options inside the organization or can acquire other pitchers who will help more.

Bill James 2012 projections for Matt Capps are for him to go 3-4 with three saves, a 3.86 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, a 2.1 BB/9 rate and a 6.6 K/9 rate.

My opinion is that if he can get Capps signed for 1 year and $2.75 million or less, sign him. If you can get him for 2 years and $5 million or less, sign him. Because there should be teams out there willing to pay him more, I don’t anticipate him coming back.

A quick epilogue to this blog – No one was higher on Wilson Ramos as a Twins prospect than me. I absolutely hated the Ramos for Capps trade when it happened at the July trade deadline in 2010. However, Matt Capps did not make the trade. In fact, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have traded Wilson Ramos for himself. However, Twins fans need to realize that that horrific trade has nothing to do with Capps ability to pitch or whether the Twins should bring him back for the right price.

TwinsCentric Notes

Feel free to comment.

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19 Responses to “Should the Twins Bring Back Matt Capps?”

  1. JimCrikket November 15, 2011 at 12:26 am #

    In my original “2012 blueprint” from a couple of weeks ago, I advocated bringing Capps back in a set-up role. That was before we found out Terry Ryan was going to be limited to about $100 million for a payroll. I’m not sure that leaves room to pay Capps $2.5-$3 million, but I wouldn’t object at all if Ryan did so. Fans need to get over the trade.

  2. Greg November 15, 2011 at 3:04 am #

    Strong reliever to have in the pen… Hindsight 20/20……Wonder who OK the overall trade of Ramos…

  3. Bill in Sarasota November 15, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    I would sign him to a 2 year deal for 7 mil (3.5 per year). Then hope he does well as the closer and try to trade him at the deadline (assuming the Twins are under 500).

  4. TT November 15, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    ” He made $7.15 million in 2011 and in arbitration would likely get a small raise over that number.”

    I don’t know what that would be based on. He went from being a closer on a championship team to a setup guy on a team that lost 99 games.

    • Seth November 15, 2011 at 9:29 am #

      The system that MLB and arbitration generally has… I don’t think it would be more than $7.25 million, and the least that it could be is $5.72 million (80% of previous year). Either way… can’t offer arbitration.

      • TT November 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

        The system of arbitration does not guarantee a salary increase and it is based on a team’s record and the contributions of the player to that record. I don’t think it will be tough to justify a cut in pay for Capps with those criteria.

        As for whether $5.72 million is too much, I don’t know where you are going to find a closer who will do a one year deal at that level.

  5. roger November 15, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Seth, there was one person I know of who was probably higher on Ramos than you!

    Yes, Capps doesn’t walk a lot of batters. When you throw a flat, average speed fastball down the middle of the plate you won’t walk a lot of batters. You also will blow a lot of games wide open.

    I don’t know baseball like Terry Ryan or the rest of the Twins execs do. I wouldn’t bring Capps back. If they do and really are limited to $100mm, Capps has to come back for a lot less than $2.75mm.

    • Seth November 15, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      I agree that payroll limitations obviously will affect that decision, in the same way signing Dotel or Hawkins or any bullpen arms that Twins fans would get excited about.

  6. roger November 15, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Seth, just saw over on Twitter that you picked the Vikes to beat the Packers. Is that accurate?

    Can’t believe all the hype KARE-11 had about the game. Nice to see them build up a game that the Packers would win by a bigger score than the Badgers on Saturday. Nice weekend for us cheeseheads, eh?

    • Seth November 15, 2011 at 9:27 am #

      Nope, here was my pregame tweet. I was actually fairly close, at least in point differential.

      SethTweets Seth Stohs
      Get your pregame predictions in… Mine? #Vikings 16, #Packers 52.

      • roger November 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

        Sorry Seth, somehow I read it this morning as Vikings 16, Packer 12. Went back and checked and saw my old eyes must be failing.

  7. peterb18 November 15, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    No, because everytime I watch him pitch, or his name is mentioned I think of Wilson Ramos. That trade bothered me more than any I can think of(in recent memory). The Twins’ brass knew Joe was fragile and probably could not catch a full season. I expect him to be (Joe) a 90 game catcher at best. So this Wilson thing really sets the Twins back in more ways than one.

    • Seth November 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      Must not have read that last paragraph, huh?

      There are plenty of reasons to NOT bring Capps back… Wilson Ramos is not one of them.

      • peterb18 November 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

        The humor was too subtle on this one! Yes, I did read your last paragraph and you are correct in your analysis. However, I just tried to emphasize that most avid fans will always associate Capps with the Ramos trade. But, again I agree with you that you can try to bring him back for the right price.

  8. Matt November 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    I would consider bringing Capps back on a 2-year deal, 3 to 3.5 mil. If another team wants to offer Capps a closer’s role at a closer’s rate, they can have him.

  9. Mark November 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    The mistake was to let Jesse Crain go. A setup guy of that caliber is a $4 million man and we should have just extended that to Crain last year. We knew we had the Nathan situation, but that was a sunk cost that could be dumped the next year. They should have bit the bullet and signed him.

    And, this is especially true when you consider it will take about the same to sign Matt Capps, an inferior reliever to Crain in my opinion.

    I think though, that the Twins need to commit to rebuilding and just not worry about short term relievers. THere are only a few, like Crain, that are consistently good (and even they have their ups and downs). The Twins should use their pitching roster spots to look at a variety of pitchers, maybe moving some in and out of the bullpen and starting rotation. This will cost wins but over the long term if we can develop a staff from it, then it will contribute when we have a winning team. Doing a good job of talent evaluation will make that happen quicker.

    Then, once the framework of a good team is established, any missing pieces can be filled by trades, minor free agency, or a myriad of other manueers.

  10. rhobbs November 16, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I agree with you Seth that how Capps got here should be a non-factor in considering his retention. But the 2012 Twins need to see what they have with the young guys. They know what they have with Capps; average and over-priced. He is not part of the future going forward and it really doesn’t matter if he adds a marginal victory or two next year.

  11. mike wants wins November 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    For a cheap price and short term…yes. For anything that he is likely expecting….no chance. And certainly not as a closer.

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