Agent Paul Kinzer said yesterday that the Mets and Twins are among the teams to express interest in Matt Capps, adding: “I think he’s going to be closing somewhere. I’ll put it that way.”
That’s hard to believe, in part because Capps pitched his way out of the closer job in Minnesota this year and in part because the free agent market is flush with veteran closers.
Jonathan Papelbon signed in Philadelphia and Ryan Madson, Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Heath Bell, and Frank Francisco are all looking for closer jobs. Perhaps some team will view Capps as a cheap fallback option, but even then former closers like Brad Lidge, Jonathan Broxton, Mike Gonzalez, and Octavio Dotel are also out there.
Capps was still reasonably effective this year, throwing 66 innings with a 4.25 ERA, but his strikeout rate plummeted to 4.7 per nine innings and he served up 10 homers. Tough to imagine there’s a team out there looking at him as more than a moderately priced setup man.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”