It has clearly been a lost season for the Minnesota Twins, as they currently sit in last place in the American League Central with a 60-87 record and look headed for a second straight campaign approaching 100 losses. Relief pitcher Matt Capps has not been a big part of the team’s struggles lately, as he has not pitched since mid-July due to a shoulder issue. But news came Monday saying he will begin to face hitters in the Twins’ fall instructional league this week and has a chance to return to the Twins’ bullpen before the season ends.
Capps could return to the big leagues as soon as early next week as he looks to finish the season strong and most importantly healthy. Prior to his injury he had not pitched that badly this season, with a 3.81 ERA and 14 saves in 15 opportunities over 28.1 innings (29 appearances). If he had been healthy multiple contenders may have looked to make a trade for him prior to the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, so the timing of his injury was clearly not ideal for the Twins and presumably Capps himself if he wanted to pitch for a playoff contender.
Capps was originally acquired by the Twins from the Washington Nationals for catcher Wilson Ramos in July of 2010, and was re-signed last offseason to a one-year, $4.5 million deal to return as Minnesota’s closer. He also has a $6 million team option for next season in the contract, but it’s virtually guaranteed the Twins will not pick up that option at this point since that kind of money can be better spent to help fill other holes on the roster.
Capps would appear to have little to gain by returning to action at this stage of the season, but he definitely wants to prove he is healthy and can pitch effectively prior to likely hitting the free agent market this winter. The Twins could consider bringing him back for 2013, but it would have to be at a far lower salary than he made this season and would make under the option in his current deal.
Just how much interest Capps would get from other teams is an open question, but he has been fairly successful in his eight major leagues seasons with 138 saves and a 3.53 ERA over 443 total appearances with the Twins, Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates. There will almost certainly be less accomplished relievers available on the open market this offseason, and at age 29 he should have at least a few more good years left. He does not project to be a closer with a 6.5 career K/9 rate, despite the Twins using him in that role since they acquired him. Ideally, on a good team at least, Capps would best fit as a late-inning setup man.