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Insider Only Pirates decision to cut ties with reliever Matt Capps not a surprise

The word “surprising” kept coming up in news reports of the Pirates failing to tender closer Matt Capps a contract by the midnight Saturday deadline, allowing him to become a free agent.
However, it really wasn’t a surprise. The Pirates shopped Capps aggressively at the winter meetings last week in Indianapolis and there were clear signs they would cut him loose if he did not agree to a contract on their terms.
While general manager Neal Huntington had said in September and again in December that he planned to tender Capps, he never said so definitively and always left a hint of doubt in his words.
Huntington is firmly part of the new wave of general managers who take into account statistical analysis as much as they do scouting in making decisions. One of the tenets of the sabermetricians is to never to overpay for a reliever because you rarely get value for your money.

Capps made $2.3 million last season and surely would have had his salary jump to at least $4 million through arbitration as he had 27 saves, something that would have impressed a three-person arbitration panel.
However, Capps had career worsts with a 5.80 ERA, 12.1 hits per nine innings, 1.7 home runs per nine innings and 2.8 walks per nine innings in 2009. Throw in the fact that Capps has spent nearly two months on the disabled list with shoulder problems in 2008 then battled elbow soreness in the early stages of last season, and it led the Pirates to believe Capps was in the decline phase of his career despite being just 26.
Meanwhile, the Pirates are confident Joel Hanrahan can take over as the closer despite being removed from the job twice by Washington last season before the Nationals traded him on June 30 with Lastings Milledge for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. Hanrahan had a 1.72 ERA and did not allow a home run in 33 games with the Pirates, giving up just 6.6 hits per nine innings. However, he did issue 5.7 walks per nine innings while striking out 10.6.
“He was throwing the ball better than anybody they had in their bullpen in the second half of last season,” said a major-league scout who regularly covers the Pirates. “They had him throwing his slider for strikes again and that makes a big difference. All he had was the fastball with Washington and hitters were sitting on it and killing him. He’s got a great arm and now he has confidence to go with it.”

About The Author

John Perrotto

Pirates Insider

John Perrotto is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB. John has covered the Pirates for over 20+ seasons and is an exclusive member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

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