The Rays’ bullpen could be heading towards a time of transition with Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, and Kyle Farnsworth all eligible for free agency. A large part of the Rays’ 2013 bullpen will be younger players stepping up, but we know that the Rays have always liked to find relievers at low prices and turn their careers around. Is Matt Capps a player that the Rays could pursue in that role?
In 2012 for the Minnesota Twins, Capps, 29, went 1-4 with a 3.68 ERA, a 5.5 K/9, a 1.2 BB/9, and a 1.5 HR/9 in 30 appearances and 29.1 IP, saving 14 games. He also missed quite a bit of time with shoulder inflammation. Despite his 138 career saves, including 42 in 2010 between the Washington Nationals and the Twins, Capps has never been so overpowering. He throws a fastball that reaches the mid-90’s, but it’s a little too straight and he relies on a nice high-80’s changeup and a slider for most of his swings-and-misses. He throws a ton of strikes but has never struck out as many as 8 batters per 9 innings and has always been homer-prone. Capps have never really had late inning stuff, and now that he hasn’t been pitching as well of late, he looks to transition to more of a middle relief or setup role moving forward, something the Rays could certainly accommodate at the right price. Capps made 4.5 million dollars in 2012 but is due for a pay cut this offseason, and if he stays in the 1 to 2 million dollar range, the Rays can make their pitch to him that they can make some subtle improvements to his mechanics that could lead to great results as has been the case with players like Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth, Joaquin Benoit, and Joel Peralta. Capps isn’t one of these pitchers with electric stuff but control struggles that the Rays particularly like to tinker with, but they could look at him as a comparable player to Peralta, who came to Tampa Bay with a 7.3 K/9, a 2.4 BB/9, and a 1.3 HR/9 before improving to a 9.7 K/9, a 2.4 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9 the last two seasons with the Rays. Capps has a 6.5 K/9, a 1.7 BB/9, and a 1.1 HR/9 for his career. Their arsenals are a different but with the same underlying concept- Capps is fastball-changeup-slider while Peralta is fastball-splitter-curveball but both of them show great fastball control, get their whiffs with their changeup/splitter, and have another get-me-over pitch in their breaking balls. Do the Rays think that they could make some Peralta-esque adjustment to Capps that could help him generate more strikeouts? Who knows, but if Capps is willing to come to the Rays on a 1-year contract worth right around 1 million dollars like Peralta did, they’d be more than willing to give him a shot. Also, considering Peralta could be in line for a multi-year contract elsewhere this offseason, the Rays could view Capps as a good fit to replace him.
The refrain with all these relievers on the market is that if it’s not about the money, they should come to the Rays knowing that Tampa Bay is the perfect place for them to turn their careers around and reestablish their value. Capps could be one such pitcher, and we’ll have to see if he ends up with the Rays for the 2013 season.