Matt Capps has had a solid season, including an All-Star appearance, coming off of a questionable non-tender from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s not quite as good as his 2.80 ERA or 25 saves would suggest, but all of his peripherals suggest that he is an above average reliever. He misses about as many bats (9.4% swinging strike rate) as the average reliever but has good control, walking fewer than two batters per 9 inning both this year and for his career. Capps has also increased his ground ball rate about 7% so far this season, and as ground ball rate stabilizes relatively quickly, that is a great sign going forward. ZiPS projects a 3.69 FIP going forward, which is good for roughly 0.3-0.4 WAR for the rest of the season.
The Twins already carry Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier, and Ron Mahay, who all have FIPs below 4.00. However, only Mahay has an xFIP below 4.00, suggesting that their FIPs are either aided by HR luck or the effects of Target Field, which aren’t known exactly yet. Capps likely becomes the best reliever on the team, and should enter the closer’s role immediately. Capps won’t be a huge upgrade over Rauch, but due to the effects of bullpen chaining, the addition of Capps helps the entire bullpen.
It does seem pretty disappointing, however, that Capps is the return for Ramos after he was rumored to be half of a trade for Cliff Lee. Ramos, 22, is struggling at AAA but had a very solid 21 year old season in AA, hitting .330/.352/.447. That kind of bat could play well at catcher, and his skills will be covered in greater depth in the other side of this trade analysis.
This one’s pretty simple for the Twins. They upgrade the front end of their bullpen, but at the expense of a promising talent at catcher. Just as far as the short term goes, the Twins obviously come out ahead, as Capps is a solid reliever and immediately becomes the best on the team. He’s not a great reliever, though, and the effect probably won’t be as high as his low ERA would suggest. I just wonder if the return for Ramos could have been more.
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