Rays Strike Again

The Tampa Bay Rays continued their extremely solid offseason today by signing Gabe Kapler to a 1-yr deal worth $1 mil. Andrew Friedman and company previously traded Edwin Jackson to the Tigers for outfielder Matt Joyce, signed reliever Joe Nelson to a nice deal, and inked Pat Burrell to a 2-yr/$16 mil contract. These moves might not carry the same flash value as Sabathia/Burnett/Teixeira, but improve the club at positions meriting an uprade.

Kapler is coming off of pretty much the best season of his career. Oddly enough, the career year came on the heels of nothing, as he was, for all intents and purposes, retired from major league baseball. Kapler’s last season came in 2006, when he produced a .311 wOBA in just 147 PA. Last year, as a member of the Brewers, Kapler starred in centerfield while Mike Cameron served his suspension and began the season as one of baseball’s best.

And, he was the subject of Dave Cameron’s first post here at Fangraphs. One other interesting Rays-related note: my first post here involved Pat Burrell, Kapler’s new teammate. Coincidence? I think not! Okay, yeah, definitely a coincidence.

Kapler played 96 games last year, amassing 245 PA and posting a .362 wOBA. Adjusting for park effects, Kapler was worth +8 runs offensively last year. He played +5 run defense in centerfield though fell below the average mark in the corner outfield spots. All told, he produced a 1.7 win season in 2008, enough to command a fair market value of $7.7 mil.

His projection calls for a wOBA around .333, good for +1 run offensively. On the defensive side, it seems safe to expect around +1 or +2 runs again. In terms of playing time, it is not likely that Kapler will log more than 300 PA in 100 games. These plate appearances could come as a result of B.J. Upton not being ready for opening day. Kapler could also platoon in RF with Joyce or Gabe Gross. Or, he could just end up as the fourth outfielder.

Taking his projected playing time into account, Kapler appears to be a +0.75 to +0.80 win player next season. At $4.5-$4.8 mil/win, his fair market value would fall somewhere between $3.3 and $3.8 mil. The Rays signed him for approximately 1/3 of that value.

A low risk move in every sense of the phrase, the Rays are able to cover themselves should Kapler get hurt or prove to be ineffective. Either way, this move works out for them. If he produces like Michael Bourn or 2008-Andruw Jones, the team can cut him loose without wasting much money. Or, should he prove to be every bit as valuable as last season, they have him as a steal.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

Comments are closed.