Washington Nationals: Was Matt Capps The Right Choice?

• Had two unnamed sources not leaked details of the Pittsburgh Pirates' negotiations with reliever Matt Capps last December, they might have been able to negotiate a new deal with, or possibly trade, the 26-year-old, 6'3", 235lb right-hander, at least according to Bucs' GM Neal Huntington, who told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Dejan Kovacevic in a blog post entitled, "Huntington: Capps' money for a replacement", that, "All trade value disappeared when there was a media report of a non-tender."

It wasn't just the leaks that ended Capps' time in Pittsburgh. The Pirates did end up non-tendering their '02 7th Round pick, who'd saved a career-high 28 games while his ERA ballooned from '08's 3.02 ERA (139 ERA+) in 49 games and 53.2 IP to a 5.80 ERA (71 ERA+) in 57 games and 54.1 IP in 2009, over which Capps gave up 2.0 more BB/9 than he had the previous season, but in Larry Stone's article on the influence the so-called "Bill James Gang" has had on baseball entitled, "Numbers Game", which is included in Lindy's Sports Annual's 2010 Baseball Preview, Mr. Huntington's decision to part with Capps is cited as an example of a team using statistical analysis to justify their decision, in this case, "...to rid (themselves) of Capps' contract." 

Mr. Huntington is said in Mr. Stone's article to have "...commissioned his stat analyst, Dan Fox, to do a study on the value of relief pitching," and Mr. Huntington explained what Pittsburgh found and what led to the Pirates' decision to part with Capps in Mr. Kovacevic's PIttsburgh Post-Gazette article:

"If you're talking about the Matt Capps of '07 or '08, that would be very, very difficult to replace. He's probably not somebody we non-tender. The second half of '08 and into '09 ... it's not that hard to replace a reliever with a 5.00 or 6.00 ERA. We'll miss Matt, and we wish him well. The only reason we had interest in him is that we felt he's due to have a bounce-back year. But there are other options out there."

The Pirates' "other option"? Pittsburgh eventually signed 36-year-old right-hander Octavio Dotel to a one-year/$3.25 million dollar deal with a $4.5 million dollar club option for 2011 or a $250,000 dollar buyout. Capps' deal with the Nationals was for one-year and $3.5 million with performance based bonuses that could earn the potential closer an additional $425,000. In his 11-year MLB career, with seven different teams, Dotel's posted a (46-39) overall record with a 3.73 career ERA, 83 saves and 11.0 K/9. FIve years into his own career, Capps has saved 67 games, while posting a (19-19) record with a career 3.61 ERA, 1.7 BB/9 and 6.9 K/9...

?'s For The DC Faithful...

• Should the fact that Pittsburgh spent money for a closer, but chose not to spend it on Capps worry fans of the Washington Nationals?

• What did DC GM Mike Rizzo see in Capps that convinced him the reliever would recover from last year's struggles...?

• If the Pirates' GM was interested in Capps, and covinced he'd have a "bounce-back" year, why didn't they keep Capps?

• Is there any doubt in your mind that Capps will claim the closer's role this Spring?

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