Twins Talking Points: Matt Capps, the rotation, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka


The Matt Capps re-signing is not new news, but I would like to direct your attention to this piece written by Aaron Gleeman. It is the most perfect summary I have seen so far of all the reasons why the Capps deal made no sense at all. Defenders of the move point to the fact that Capps was hurt last year and is likely to pitch much better in 2012. Fine. I am willing to believe that will be the case, and I fervently hope it is. But as Gleeman points out, the Twins could have rebuilt their entire bullpen with pitchers who are as good as or better than Capps and gained a draft pick in the process.
Terry Ryan is a talented executive, and I think he is an intelligent man. But it is 100% impossible to justify his thinking on this one.
Some of his decisions regarding the starting rotation have been hard to stomach as well, but at least there is a 50/50 chance that a lot of those choices will work out. Nick Nelson wrote a piece analyzing those “coin-flip” scenarios, and it’s definitely worth a read. Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano seem to be true crapshoots, in that they seem to have equal chances of being dominant starters or injury-riddled disappointments this year.  I think Carl Pavano is less of a coin-flip, though. At first glance, he looked like a much worse pitcher in 2011, when he went 9-13 with a 4.30 ERA. Not so nifty compared to his 2010 record of 17-11, 3.75. But his secondary numbers were almost the same: 4.10 FIP compared to 4.02, 1.6 BB/9 compared to 1.5, 3.1 WAR compared to 2.9. If Tsuyoshi Nishioka had done as good a job in the field as JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson did in 2010, Pavano might have had about the same ERA in 2011. He is arguably the only consistently competent pitcher the Twins have.
Speaking of the rotation, Rich Harden is still unemployed, which leads me to believe he’d be available for either a minor league deal or a rock-bottom price on a Major League contract. What is preventing the Twins from going after him? Sure, they have 3 billion pitchers attending Spring Training already, but if Harden could somehow stay healthy, he’d be better than almost all of them. And the Zumaya deal proves the Twins are willing to take a chance on a pitcher with injury problems. Best case scenario: the Twins could have a competent middle-rotation starter or a short relief option who can strike batters out. Worst-case scenario: they’re out $450,000 (one tenth of Capps’s 2012 salary). There is really no excuse for the Twins not to try to sign Harden, unless they have some sort of secret medical proof that he won’t be able to pitch in 2012.
And even then, I’m not sure I trust the opinions of the Twins’ doctors. Sign Harden anyway!
Finally, some news emerged regarding Nishioka. According to some Twitter chatter, the Twins infielder is getting a divorce. A player’s personal life is his own business, of course, but I found this interesting because it’s possible that he might have been dealing with some off-field problems that hindered his performance on-field last year. Vikings fans may remember that kicker Gary Andersen blamed his 1999 slump on similar issues. But Nishioka had to deal with a severe injury and the difficulties of adapting to a foreign culture along with his marital discord. That lethal combination, rather than any actual lack of ability, might be to blame for his dismal 2011 season. The good news is that he might be able to put that behind him and play better in 2012. I’m not holding my breath, but that would be a major boost for the Twins.