Capps lands in Washington

In a marriage that made sense the moment the Pirates non-tendered Matt Capps, the right-hander has inked a deal with the Nationals.

Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day

Capps being non-tendered by Pittsburgh caught some by surprise, with their general manager defending the move saying that Capps wasn’t worth what he stood to earn in arbitration… roughly $3 million.

So much for that, as Capps will ink at $3.5 million plus an additional $450,000 in incentives. The 26-year old will enter spring training the presumptive favorite to close games. Barring any late information being revealed, Washington will have the option to offer Capps arbitration after the year as the pitcher doesn’t gain free agent rights until after 2011.

While Capps suffered through an ugly season, posting a 5.80 ERA, his xFIP tells a different story. xFIP, a measure of Fielding Independent Pitching that adjusts home runs based on it being a function of fly balls per ballpark, plummets to 4.37, more in line with a career xFIP of 4.14 and ERA of 3.61.

He is renowned for his control, checking in at 1.66 over his career although 2009 inflated that number with an ugly (for him) 2.82 BB/9. Provided that Capps firms up his control, he should go back to being a more than adequate closer, especially for a young, rebuilding team like the Nationals that recently inked Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Marquis.

Given that the Pirates will likely have to pay around $2-$3 million in base salary for a replacement closer (they’ve been linked to Octavio Dotel and Kevin Gregg), I think this was a massive misfire by Neal Huntington — one of his rare misfires. Huntington is a quality general manager and I think stands a great chance (better than Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield, certainly) at turning the Pirates around, but this was a very curious decision by him. It doesn’t impact his reputation, as every manager now and then will make the wrong move. Hopefully, Huntington learns from this and doesn’t make the same mistake again.


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Will Yoder
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Will Yoder
The was a great deal for the Nationals and for Capps. Capps is given an opportunity to regain value on the open market, and the Nationals will have the opportunity to use him in their penn until Drew Storen is ready. From what I have read, Capps was offered a two year deal but turned it down from the Nationals, instead opting to take a one year deal and enter free-agency next year. I don’t think the Nationals have intentions to tender him if he is arbitration eligible (not sure about it either). What I imagine will happen is that… Read more »
Colin Wyers
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Colin Wyers

The problem with the idea of unloading a free agent to another team at the deadline is that every other team had a chance at him and passed – in other words, no other team thought he was as valuable as he did. Sure, there’s a chance that somebody will change their mind in the interim, but it’s often an outside chance at the best.

Will Yoder
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Will Yoder

While in most cases it might seem like the Nationals are everyone’s last option, for Capps it was actually his choice. He was courted by as many as 10 teams, picked two finalists and then chose Washington over Chicago.

Furthermore, if Capps has a line something like a 3.20 ERA and 18 saves at the time of the deadline, and another team needs bullpen help or has an injured closer, he becomes extremely valuable. If he pitches well, I can’t imagine him not having at least some value on the trade market.

MarkInDallas
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MarkInDallas
This is only a misstep by Huntington if Capps returns all the way back to previous success levels. Although many relievers have a year where their numbers are completely out of whack, with Capps there is a very good reason this might not be the case. Capps has only one effective pitch, his fastball. He’s not a 2 pitch pitcher like most other closers. He has indeed had control problems which he could very well straighten out. However, his main problem has been the movement lost on his fastball, which now makes it a very ordinary pitch instead of extraordinary.… Read more »
Bob Wagner
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Bob Wagner

Capps would not have been a free agent had the Pirates tendered him a contract…as he has a little over 4 years service time. He won’t hit automatic free agency until after the 2011 season. Everything I’ve seen is $3.5M plus incentives (425K)…about what he was reportedly asking in arbitration.

Many closers have one season in their careers where their numbers are totally out of whack with the remainder of their career. Or, in Brad Lidge’s case, 2 seasons. If Capps returns to his 2006-2008 performance level…the Nationals are getting off pretty easy.

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