So obviously he's one of the Twenty-Five. And I'm told he's really, really hot (no link provided, sorry). But not many people have actually discussed how he's doing. First off, he's being put on waivers because of an injury (from the Japan Times; I haven't seen much elsewhere):
Giants release KaplerThe Yomiuri Giants have released Gabe Kapler and applied to have the former Boston Red Sox outfielder put on waivers, officials of the Central League club said Friday.
Last month, Kapler was taken off the roster and was treated for lower back problems that began in May. He asked the club to terminate his contract citing a failure to fully recover and dim prospects of a return to the first team.
Let's assume it's very minor, and was really an easy ticket back to the states. In that case, it's probably worth looking at his statistics in Japan: 111 AB, .153/.217/.261, 5XBH, 3HR, 9BB, 19K, 2SB. Obviously terrible numbers, though (a) 111 AB isn't that many and (b) he was absolutely miserable in Japan so probably was in a bad place mentally. So then, turning to last year, he had 290 AB, and went .272/.311/.390, with 21 XBH, 6 HR, 15 BB/49K. OPS of .701, which is about Mark Bellhorn's so far this year (Kapler's OBP is worse, though his power, of course, is not). Compare that to Payton's .263/.313/.429 (.742 OPS). So it would seem like a step down offensively. However, assuming Manny/Damon/Nixon stay healthy, Kapler would largely be used to face left-handed pitching. And then his 2004 numbers get much better. In 126 AB, he went .317/.333/.500, for an OPS of .833; 14 of his XBH (and 4 of his HR) were against lefties, even though that was fewer than half his at-bats. Pretty great, with all of these numbers better than Payton's this year (to be fair, Payton's career numbers suggest he's having an off year, perhaps a result of the reduced role, and/or anger management issues). Of course, such numbers also speak to how bad Kapler is against righties.
So the question is simply whether Kapler can put the last few months behind him and hit like it's 2004. If he can, he would be a great, inexpensive pickup. And the Sox would have a legitimate 4th OF who is just happy to be there. Which is apparently more than can be said about some of the players in the Sox clubhouse right now.