Matt Capps re-signing a baffling move for Twins on several fronts

Day 1 of the winter meetings saw the Twins complete a move that has seemed inevitable for a few weeks, as they re-signed Matt Capps to a one-year, $4.5 million contract with a $6 million option or $250,000 buyout for 2013.

Capps’ return is far more complex than the average $4.75 million deal because it involves so many strong emotions, conjures up so much frustration and extends a series of extremely questionable decisions.

By trading Wilson Ramos to the Nationals for Capps in July 2010, the Twins made a massive blunder, parting with a 22-year-old top prospect for a non-elite reliever they vastly overvalued because he was a so-called “proven closer.” Capps pitched well down the stretch in 2010 but then received $7.15 million via the arbitration process this year and had a poor season while Ramos established himself as one of baseball’s best all-around catchers at age 23.

Capps’ poor pitching, combined with Ramos’ continued development in Washington, led to many fans being strongly opposed to Capps’ return under any circumstances, but general manager Terry Ryan, pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire repeatedly made it very clear that they think he’s likely to bounce back in a big way. And for the most part, they’re right, at least to an extent.

Capps revealed after the season that he pitched through arm problems, which, while far from a positive thing, does help explain his diminished velocity, vanishing strikeout totals and overall struggles. Beyond that, his 4.25 ERA and 34-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 innings equaled a 4.49 xFIP that’s within shouting distance of his 4.01 career mark and fairly close to palatable for, say, a seventh-inning setup man making a couple of million bucks.

Matt Capps
REUTERS/Eric Miller
Matt Capps

Unfortunately, unless the Twins beef up the bullpen with a trade, Capps looks destined to pitch in a higher-leverage role than the seventh inning, with closing again a very real possibility, and $4.75 million is considerably more than a mediocre setup man should be worth to a team with multiple holes to fill and limited room in a payroll dropping $10 million to $15 million. And perhaps worst of all, by re-signing Capps, the Twins forfeited a valuable asset for their ongoing rebuilding effort.

Thanks to changes within the new collective bargaining agreement, the Twins no longer had to offer Capps arbitration in order to receive their compensation for the Type B free agent signing elsewhere. That meant the Twins were essentially handed a free supplemental first-round pick for Capps, and they handed it right back, giving up a top-75 pick for the right to pay him $4.75 million instead of simply letting him walk and signing a different mediocre veteran reliever.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Addie Moe on 12/06/2011 - 11:11 am.

    Not exactly the most encouraging signing by the Twins. And we thought they were going to try and make the team better for next year. Yeah, right.

  2. Submitted by Brad Lundell on 12/06/2011 - 07:18 pm.

    Agree Aaron. I don’t understand this move at all. Only caveat would be that the Twins have had–in my estimation–a comparatively strong “closer-centric” approach to the bullpen in that they don’t often seem to leave that to the spring training audition process.

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