By John Perrotto
The Pirates and Nationals might wind up switching closers in a roundabout way.
Matt Capps, who was not tendered a contract by the Pirates by the Dec. 12 deadline and became a free agent, has narrowed his choices to signing with either the Cubs or the Nationals. Meanwhile, Mike MacDougal, who was non-tendered by the Nationals, is drawing interest from the Pirates.
Capps converted 27 of 31 saves last season but had a 5.80 ERA in 54 1/3 innings. MacDougal, 32, was 20-for-21 in save opportunities with a 4.31 ERA in 54 1/3 innings with the Nationals after he was released by the White Sox early in the season.
MacDougal has had an up-and-down career that has spanned nine seasons with the Royals (2001-06), White Sox (2006-09) and Nationals (2009). He is 14-21 with 70 saves in 89 opportunities and a 4.09 ERA in 314 games, three starts.
The Pirates are also considering signing free agent reliever Danys Baez, who also has closing experience, including a 41-save season with the Rays in 2005. The 32-year-old right-hander spent last season with the Orioles, going 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 59 games.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington knows Baez well as he was the assistant general manager when the Indians signed him in 2001 following his defection from Cuba. Baez has pitched eight seasons in the major leagues with the Indians (2001-03), Rays (2004-05), Dodgers (2006), Braves (2006) and Orioles (2007, 2009), going 35-49 with 114 saves in 150 opportunities and a 4.04 ERA in 453 games, 26 starts.