Matt Capps Rumors
The Twins had two players save 14+ games this past season, and one of them agreed to join the Rangers yesterday. Minnesota is open to bringing the other one back, as John Shipley of The Pioneer Press reports that both GM Terry Ryan and Matt Capps are open to a reunion. The two sides spoke on Tuesday morning.
Ryan acknowledged Capps' struggles in 2011, when the 28-year-old right-hander pitched to a 4.25 ERA in 65 2/3 innings and was regularly booed off the field at Target Field. "I would say I'm looking back two years ago to the type of year he had," said the GM, referring to the 2010 season. Capps saved 42 games for the Nationals and Twins that year, posting a 2.47 ERA in 73 innings.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Capps will be treated as a Type-B free agent. The Twins would receive a supplement draft pick if he signs elsewhere, but his new team will not have to forfeit a pick. The Red Sox and Angels have expressed interest in the burly right-hander recently.
Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Ramon Hernandez and Darren Oliver were all Type A free agents under the Elias Rankings system, but they will now be treated as Type B free agents, the MLBPA announced. Teams won't have to surrender draft picks to sign them, but the players' former teams obtain a supplementary first round pick whether or not they offer arbitration tomorrow.
Meanwhile, clubs won't have to surrender a draft pick to sign one of the following six players: Heath Bell, Michael Cuddyer, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Madson, Josh Willingham and Francisco Rodriguez. Teams that lose these players after offering arbitration will obtain first round picks in the slot before the signing team plus a supplementary draft pick for a total of two selections.
Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Roy Oswalt, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins were also Type A free agents this offseason. They will cost one draft pick to sign. Their teams will obtain two total picks if they decline offers of arbitration to sign elsewhere, as expected. Takashi Saito and Carlos Beltran, two other Type As, cannot be offered arbitration. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the changes.
The latest on the Red Sox...
- Agent Adam Katz confirmed that Yoenis Cespedes will work out for the Red Sox in the Dominican Republic, tweets Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.
- Chairman Tom Werner said that the managerial process has not concluded after the team's second interview with Dale Sveum today, tweets Cafardo.
- The Red Sox met with several agents last night, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, including Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES. As our agency database shows, ACES represents free agents Heath Bell, David DeJesus, Ross Gload, Jonny Gomes, Aaron Harang, Raul Ibanez, Jason Marquis, Jose Molina, Jorge Posada, Fernando Rodney, Ramon Santiago, and Javier Vazquez.
- The Red Sox have shown no interest in trading Carl Crawford, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
- The Red Sox are narrowing their managerial search, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, and one of his sources believes very strongly that Pete Mackanin is no longer a candidate. Still, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters today that his club granted an extension of their window of permission to talk to their bench coach at some point. Dale Sveum is meeting Red Sox management off-site today for a second interview, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- The Red Sox checked in with agent Paul Kinzer of reliever Matt Capps, reports WEEI's Alex Speier. Speier notes that Capps has closing experience but is willing to set up. Capps may fit Boston's desire to avoid multiyear deals for relievers, given his off-year.
- Terry Francona isn't going to try to manage in 2012, he told Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. The former Red Sox manager had been excited about interviewing for the Cardinals job, but doesn't think the Cubs position is the right opportunity.
- The Red Sox matched up fairly well with the Diamondbacks a year ago for Justin Upton, GM Kevin Towers told Speier, but "nothing ever really got that close."
It's been a busy first day of the GM meetings, but we don't want to let anything fall through the cracks. Here's a collection of assorted links from throughout the day:
- The Reds don't intend to make Brandon Phillips available in a trade, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers confirms a rumor we'd heard about previously, telling MLB.com's Ken Gurnick that his team has interest in Hiroki Kuroda.
- The Red Sox aren't the only team meeting with David Ortiz's agent tonight. Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that the Orioles will also meet with Fern Cuza, and could be interested in Ortiz as well. GM Dan Duquette noted that Cuza also represents Vladimir Guerrero, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.
- Former Angels pitching coach Marcel Lachemann has rejoined the team as an assistant to new GM Jerry Dipoto, says Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- Earlier this week, we heard the Angels were eyeing right-handed relief help. DiGiovanna has more details on their search, naming Octavio Dotel, Todd Coffey, and Matt Capps as some possible targets.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer will explore the possibility of bringing back Kerry Wood, says MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.
- At U.S.S. Mariner, Dave Cameron explains why he doesn't think the Mariners should open their wallets to sign Prince Fielder.
- Craig Counsell is open to both playing and "non-playing" offers, tweets Tom Haudicourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Counsell isn't necessarily leaning toward retirement, but would seriously consider it for the right non-playing opportunity.
Agent Paul Kinzer confirmed to reporters today that Aramis Ramirez won’t re-sign with the Cubs. Here are the details plus more notes from the exchange (all links go to Twitter):
- Kinzer says Ramirez won’t be re-signing in Chicago. “That ship has sailed,” he said, according to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat.
- Ramirez is looking for a four-year deal or a three-year deal with an option, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan expressed interest in re-signing Matt Capps, according to Rosenthal.
- Kinzer has been getting lots of calls on Capps, but the Nationals haven’t called on the reliever, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Kinzer expects the Blue Jays will have interest, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, and the agent could see the Mets expressing interest, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
- The White Sox and many other teams are interested in Shane Lindsay, the Australian right-hander who elected free agency last month, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
Terry Ryan returned to the role of Twins GM yesterday; here's the latest on the club.
- Ryan will be the GM for as long as he wants to be, a member of the Twins organization told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. "I don't know if it'll be for one year or 10 years," Ryan said yesterday, noting that if he likes the job he expects owner Jim Pohlad to let him stay.
- Ryan alluded to a $100MM payroll for 2012 yesterday, down from the $113-118MM range the Twins had in 2011. However, Twins president David St. Peter told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Terry and I, frankly, have not had one discussion about our payroll for next year. He’s been privy to it because nothing has changed from what we had been telling Bill [Smith]...I think it can be a fluid number. I’m hoping we can find a way to inch it forward." Christensen guesses the Twins will ultimately have a payroll in the $110MM range.
- If Kevin Slowey and Jose Mijares are not retained, I'd estimate the Twins' commitments in the $74MM range for 2012 before accounting for minimum salary players. That could mean as much as $30MM to spend on 2012 salaries.
- Ryan's said his first priority is to reach out to the agents for the team's own free agents: Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Joe Nathan, and Matt Capps.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
Before the season, MLBTR writers identified 13 players who were set for 'make or break' years. These players had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for success in free agency.
Players whose seasons met or exceeded preseason expectations:
- Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez had a strong season, hitting 26 homers and posting a .306/.361/.510 line as the Cubs' everyday third baseman.
- Edwin Jackson - Jackson, a free agent after the season, completed 199 2/3 innings with a 3.79 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 43.8% ground ball rate.
- Bobby Abreu - Though Abreu's power dropped off, he managed a .353 on-base percentage and 21 steals. His 2012 option vested in July, so he should be back in Los Angeles for a fourth season with the Angels.
- Carlos Beltran - A highly-coveted midsummer trade target, Beltran spent time on the DL with a strained right hand and wrist in August. His season line was .300/.385/.525, so agent Scott Boras will likely receive multiyear offers for the switch-hitter.
- Jeff Francis - Francis pitched 183 innings with a 4.82 ERA, 4.5 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. He wasn't spectacular, but he made his starts, quieting questions about the condition of his left shoulder.
Players who had disappointing seasons due to injury or poor performance:
- Scott Kazmir - Kazmir spent time on the DL, made one appearance for the Angels and posted a 17.02 ERA with more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A before getting released. The 2011 season could not have gone much worse for the former first rounder.
- Nate McLouth - McLouth's .228/.344/.333 line is better than it was last year and features a respectable on-base percentage, but he missed the second half with oblique and abdominal injuries.
- Jonathan Broxton - It was a lost season for Broxton, who recently had surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow and is looking at an incentive-based one-year deal in free agency.
- Grady Sizemore - Sizemore got off to a hot start, but finished the season with a .224/.285/.422 line. Knee and abdominal issues limited him to 71 games and there's no guarantee that the Indians will pick up his $9MM option for 2012.
- Joel Zumaya - Zumaya didn't pitch in a Major League game after undergoing elbow surgery in March.
- Ryan Doumit - A sprained left ankle limited the 30-year-old to 77 games. When healthy, he posted a .303/.353/.477 line, but it doesn't appear likely that the Pirates will pick up his $7.25MM option.
- Casey Blake - Blake hit .252/.342/.371 in 239 plate appearances and spent considerable time on the DL with a cervical strain. He had surgery in September and the Dodgers will decline his $6MM option for 2012.
- Matt Capps - Capps saw his strikeout rate (4.7 K/9), ground ball rate (41.6%), average fastball velocity (92.9 mph) and innings total (65 2/3) drop this year, while his ERA rose nearly two runs to 4.25. At least he stayed healthy, unlike many on this list.
The market for Jose Reyes should still be strong after the season, Jon Heyman writes at SI.com. MLB executives tell Heyman that the Giants, Cardinals, Tigers, Angels, Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees and Mets could be fits for the shortstop in terms of finances and positional need. Here are the rest of Heyman’s rumors...
- Yankees people suggest they’re unlikely to pursue Reyes and Red Sox people say they don’t expect to spend big on a position player this winter.
- The Red Sox haven’t discussed a new deal with David Ortiz, though they’re confident that they’ll be able to re-sign him after the season. Ortiz has expressed interest in a multiyear deal for a while, but the Red Sox don’t want to guarantee more than one year.
- First overall draft pick Gerrit Cole is looking to approach Stephen Strasburg’s $15.1MM bonus and top Mariners pick Danny Hultzen is looking for $13MM plus money for school, Heyman reports. Keep track of which top picks have signed here.
- The Twins appear to want to keep Joe Nathan when he hits free agency after the season, but they’ll probably let Matt Capps sign elsewhere.
MLB teams made what's arguarbly the riskiest investment in baseball 17 times last offseason, signing free agent relief pitchers to multiyear deals. Not surprisingly, many of the deals haven't worked out, but that won't stop baseball's owners from handing out another round of generous contracts to the relievers who hit the open market this offseason.
Relievers like Matt Capps, who are mere months away from free agency, have every reason to wonder if they'll be among the beneficiaries of teams' never-ending search for bullpen stability. Unfortunately for Capps (and the Twins), his numbers have fallen off in 2011, so his case for a multiyear deal isn't as strong as it would have been last year.
The 27-year-old is striking out far fewer hitters this year (4.5 K/9, 12.3 K%) than in 2010 (7.3 K/9, 19.3 K%). Capps' average fastball velocity has dropped from 94 mph to 92.8 mph and opposing hitters are making more contact than they did a year ago. When they do make contact, it's much less likely to be a ground ball now (38.8% ground ball rate) than it was in 2010 (49.8% ground ball rate). The right-hander's ERA now sits at 4.34 (4.27 xFIP), about two runs higher than last year's 2.47 mark (3.31 xFIP).
To his credit, Capps has cut down on walks (1.2 BB/9) compared to last year (2.1 BB/9), but that doesn't make the warning signs disappear. The market for relievers who are losing fastball velocity, inducing fewer ground balls and generating fewer swings and misses doesn't tend to be strong.
It's a lot for the Twins to take into account when deciding whether to offer arbitration this offseason. Capps projects as a Type A free agent, so Minnesota could theoretically obtain two top draft choices by offering arbitration if he declines the offer and signs elsewhere.
But would any team surrender a high draft choice for the right to sign Capps? And, perhaps more to the point, wouldn't Capps' representatives at Wasserman Media Group recommend that their client accept an offer of arbitration? After all, Capps earns $7.15MM this season and would earn a raise by accepting arbitration.
All of this makes it seem unlikely that Capps will obtain an arbitration offer from the Twins, so it's hard to imagine him hitting the market tied to draft pick compensation. All Capps will cost is cash and owners have shown a willingness to overpay for serviceable relievers before. If he obtains multiyear security on the open market despite his decline in performance, he won't be the first reliever to profit from baseball's over-eager owners.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.