Saturday, July 31, 2010

Accepting the Matt Capps Deal

So Matt Capps isn’t that great.  I’ve moved on.  I’ve accepted the fact that the Twins no longer have Wilson Ramos.  But that doesn’t mean I will rationalize it.  I’m going to run through the reasons people have used to explain either why the Twins did it or why it was a good trade for Minnesota.

--The main one I’ve seen is that the Twins have Joe Mauer signed to a long-term extension, meaning they had no leverage because all the other teams knew they had to trade Ramos.  That doesn’t fly, because assuming more than just the Nationals were interested in Ramos, they were still bidding against one another.  Unless every team agreed they wouldn’t go over a certain price, they would bid higher and higher until they reached something equal to Ramos’ value.  Even then, there’d be an incentive for every team to cheat the agreement, until one team again reached something equal to Ramos’ true value.

It’s simple game theory.  Consider if there are 5 people at an auction for an item they all value at $100.  If they don’t meet beforehand, it will obviously be bid up to $100 before stopping.  If they meet beforehand, and agree not to bid over, say, $50, the final bid will still be $100.  Once the auction is at $50, every other person has an incentive to break the deal with no consequences, meaning everyone will break the deal until the bid is up to $100.  Same is true of trading for Ramos, except the agreement to not bid over a certain point is implicit.

--With this is the problem that perhaps teams did not value Ramos as highly as us Twins fans and bloggers did, and this is really the best the Twins could get for him.  I have no way of knowing if this is true or not, but I find it unlikely since Baseball America ranked him at #58 in their annual list of their top 100 prospects.  Perhaps his prospect status has dropped because he has not played all that well at AAA this year.  Again, that’s possible, but BA had him ranked #26-#50 in their midseason update.  A lot of that upward movement is caused by other prospects being called up and losing their prospect status, but it’s obvious BA does not think his stock dropped that much.  And, while BA is not a bible, I think their rankings reflect a very general idea of how teams view prospects.

--Going along with the first point, many people thought, since it was inevitable that the Twins would trade Ramos, it was essential they do it now, while he was young.  I can’t see how waiting until the offseason, or even for the next trading deadline, would hurt his value all that much.  He’d still be a 24-year old, certainly young enough to be a good prospect.

--Some have said that since they had to trade him anyways, getting Capps was good enough.  I think the best you can expect from Capps is about half a win the rest of the season.  And he won’t come cheaply in arbitration after the year since he has all the saves to increase his price tag, so I don’t know that the Twins will want to or should keep him next year.  Is that the best they could get for Wilson Ramos?  Keep in mind the opportunity cost of trading Ramos for Capps is the player(s) the Twins could have gotten for Ramos if they hadn’t traded him for Capps.

--Lastly, Jon Rauch was struggling, and Capps will bring stability to the closer position, goes one more argument.  Yes, Rauch had a bad few weeks, but everyone goes through rough stretches; I’m sure he would have and will get out of it.  Saves and closing are vastly overrated.  It was tolerable when the Twins signed one of their own players (Joe Nathan) to a closer-priced deal, but it’s not tolerable when they’re paying the closer premium to get someone from another team.  This time they paid it in the player they had to give up, and not in actual money, but the concept is the same.  If Capps was the exact same player with 26 fewer saves this year, he would have been much cheaper to acquire.  And for no reason, as experience in the closing job does not make a player any better at closing specifically.

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