La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Winter meetings, Day Two

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: December 6, 2011 - 7:57 AM

Some thoughts after the first day of the winter meetings.

I'll come right out with this. The Matt Capps deal is not a bad one, provided that he's healthy.

The reaction to his one-year, $4.75 million deal, plus an option, has been pretty one-sided. Fans are disgusted after Capps lost his closing job while posting a 4.25 ERA, 15 saves and -0.4 WAR. The Twins, however, have pointed out that Capps battled a sore forearm that didn't allow him to throw his slider the way he wanted to.

The numbers support that. Capps' strikeout rate plummeted to 4.66 per nine innings, well below his career mark of 6.60. His 1.37 home run rate was the second highest of his career. His fastball averaged 94 miles an hour in 2010, 92.9 last year. He threw his slider 15.4 percent of the time, the second lowest rate of his career. He also threw it harder than he ever has, a suggestion he was compensating for poor movement. According to fangraphs, he threw a curveball 3.9 percent of the time - the first time he was credited with throwing a curveball since 2007. Either he did try a new pitch, or it was a crappy slider.

If Capps is healthy, his numbers should revert back toward previous years. IF HE IS HEALTHY. At 28, Capps is far from washed up. And think about this: If Capps pitches well, he could become a trade chip at midseason. Give this move a chance.

That $4.75 million, by the way, includes the $250,000 buyout.

I'm trying to figure out why the Twins showed some recent interest in Mark Buehrle.

It looks like the lefthander is going to get around $14 million from someone. That salary would push the Twins' payroll over $100 million. The only way it could work is if the Twins traded Carl Pavano and his $9 million contract. But how do you do that when Pavano was the only reliable starter last season?

I don't expect Kevin Slowey to be with the Twins much longer.

There are rumblings here that the Twins are willing to talk about Slowey in deals, but officials from other teams think Slowey is going to be non-tendered by Dec. 12. If that's the case they aren't going to deal for him. Colorado was interested in him during the trade deadline, but it appears that the Rockies aren't interested now.

Slowey began last season in the bullpen and grumbled about his role. In May, he said to me: ``I understand the starters we have here, and I  understand that, even given past successes as a starter, this might not be the right fit for me anymore."

Slowey actually got a chance to start late in the season, and finished 0-8. I think he can be a good pitcher but he probably needs a change of scenery. Every time pitching coach Rick Anderson went to the mound during Slowey's late-season starts, Slowey would stare at the ground and not look Anderson in the eye. That's wrong, and if he's that unhappy he should move on.

Twins GM Terry Ryan said on Monday that Slowey is considered a starter and suggested he can still help the club. I'll believe it when I see it.

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