Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Capps could be cheap relief option

On the eve of the GM meetings in Milwaukee, many agents for players have already arrived and made sure to get their clients names out in the media. The one piece of Twins news that came out of these reports on Monday was related to Matt Capps. Apparently, the Twins have shown interested in bring Capps back for another season with the organization. 

Capps' agent, Paul Kinzer told reporters that Terry Ryan has already contacted him and expressed interested in the right-handed free agent relief pitcher. He said, "[Capps is] such a presence in the clubhouse and a good teammate, and the Twins really valued him." Obviously, these are the words of a man that is trying to sell his client for the highest price and he is going to make Capps sound like he is God's gifts to pitchers. 

The other return possibility for the Twins is free agent Joe Nathan. He expressed interest in returning to the Twins during last season but now that he has expressed interest in going to a club that will be a contender next season. It remains to be seen if the Twins will fall into that category. Both Capps and Nathan want to get paid like closers and it will be interesting to see if the market plays out in their favor.

Some team's may look at Nathan's age and recent injury problems as a deterrent to signing the former All Star closer. Nathan will be 37-years old for all of next season and in comparison, Capps will only be 28-years old. Age should not be the only thing the Twins look at when offering a pitcher a contract for next season. The team needs to estimate what type of production these players will bring to the table in 2012. 

FanGraphs.com released the 2012 Bill James Handbook Projections for every player. Here is how these two hurlers faired in that ranking system with a comparison to their numbers from this year:

Capps (2011 season): 
65.2 IP, 4.25 ERA, 4.66 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, .263 BABIP
Capps (2012 BJH Projection):
63.0 IP, 3.86 ERA, 6.57 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, .306 BABIP

Nathan (2011 season):
44.2 IP, 4.84 ERA, 8.66 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, .250 BABIP
Nathan (2012 BJH Projection): 
46.0 IP, 2.35 ERA, 10.57 K/9, 3.13 BB/9, .284 BABIP

The folks at Baseball Info Solutions who compile the BJH Projections are expecting Capps to have more of a bounce back year and finish closer to his career stat line. His season in 2011 was a tough one to put together the year before free agency but this could mean the Twins would be getting a discount to bring Capps back to the team. The BJH Projections have Nathan also bouncing back but his walk rate and BABIP look to increase with his age. 

With the Twins trying to save money for next season, the organization is going to try and find the best deal for their closer role. Even with Nathan's flaws, his want to play for a contender and the other team's interested in his service could put him out of reach for the Twins. Capps would be a good fall back option for the Twins if he was cheap and they didn't guarantee him the closer's role. 

The Twins and their fans know what they are getting with Mr. Capps and there is definitely room for improvement. With the way some of the free agent closer deals have looked this offseason, a cheap deal might be hard to find. Fans remember a lot of the bad Capps from 2011 but his 2010 season was good for a team that was fighting for a division title. If the Twins can sign him to a team friendly deal with some incentives, it might be worth the risk. 

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