Capps non-tendered, becomes free agent
Already short on bullpen help, the Pirates are now in the market for more.
In a much surprising move, the Pirates did not tender a contract to closer Matt Capps, thereby making him a free agent and able to negotiate with any club this offseason. The Pirates also opted not to offer a contract to lefty Phil Dumatrait. Starter Zach Duke was tendered a contract, and shortstop Ronny Cedeno has already come to an agreement on a one-year deal with the club.
All teams had until 11:59 p.m. ET to tender contracts to players eligible for arbitration.
As late as Wednesday, general manager Neal Huntington said that the Pirates’ plans were to offer Capps a contract for next year. And on that same day in a session with reporters at the Winter Meetings, manager John Russell emphasized that despite Capps’ struggles last season, the righty would come into 2010 as the team’s closer once again.
Ultimately, however, the Pirates were concerned that Capps’ price tag for 2010 could be too high a cost to pay for a reliever that digressed significantly last year.
In the final year of a two-year contract that bought out his first year of arbitration eligibility, Capps went 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA. He record 27 saves, but he also blew five in addition to those eight losses. Had the Pirates tendered Capps a contract, he would have been due a raise on the $2.3 million he made in 2009.
“We attempted to reach agreement with both Matt and Phil prior to the deadline,” Huntington said. “Each player preferred to explore free agency. We have not closed any doors but will begin immediately to explore other opportunities to improve our bullpen.”
While Capps can still choose to negotiate with the Pirates, it’s most likely that his career in Pittsburgh is now over. Despite his struggles last season, multiple teams have shown interest in the 25-year-old right-hander, believing that he can bounce back and be a successful pitcher in the back end of a bullpen again.
In the meantime, the Pirates now have even more work to do to construct a bullpen that had already lost Jesse Chavez in an offseason trade. One thing the Pirates do seem confident in, though, is that their next closer could come in-house, as both Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek are likely to garner consideration for the role.
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