Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Capps vs.Crain, Fuentes, Guerrier and/or Rauch

Jon Rauch: The one
rated Twins free agent
reliever who didn't
find a multi-year deal.
Nick Nelson went on a rant about the Matt Capps contract, and there is truth in his core complaint: Matt Capps is going to get in excess of $7 million next season because of the save statistic.

It is an article of faith in the "real" baseball world that the ninth inning is different from the others, and it is equally an article of faith in the sabermetric world that saves are overrated. I see truth in both positions, and lean more to the sabermetric view -- but in the real world, the designated closer has driven the closer by committee to virtual extinction. Managers prefer, for a variety of reasons, to run their bullpens around the save, and that makes the stat overvalued.

Where Nelson (and he's not alone in this error) goes wrong in his rant is in assessing the alternatives. From his post:

Phil Mackey astutely pointed out that the team could have kept two of its other departed relievers by not tendering Capps a contract ...

Basic math problem. Seven million dollars is not $12 million, which is what Matt Guerrier signed for, and what Jesse Crain signed for. Seven million dollars is not $10 million, which is was Brian Fuentes got. It is more than Jon Rauch's $3.75 million, but there is no math that makes the free agent contracts any two of those four add up to less than Capps' deal, even on a one-year basis. 

On a one-year basis, it's close, but that's irrelevant. The market deemed Guerrier, Crain and Fuentes worthy of multiple years, and the Twins were never going to ink any of them to one-year deals. The Twins let other teams take the gamble of paying them into their mid 30s (in Fuentes' case, beyond). 

Letting the four free agents go was probably wise and certainly justifiable. Keeping Capps is a bit more dicey, but it's hardly the insanity Nelson calls it.

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