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