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TwinsCentric: Should the Twins bring back Capps?

  • Blog Post by: Seth Stohs
  • November 14, 2011 - 11:10 PM
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
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