Capps, Nats finalize one-year deal
Right-hander collected 67 saves in five years with Pirates
WASHINGTON -- Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo called the signing of right-hander Matt Capps "a major announcement." Capps agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal with Washington, and could make an additional $425,000 in performance bonuses.
During an informal news conference in the Nationals' clubhouse Wednesday, Capps, who will wear uniform No. 55, said he joined the team because he liked the moves Rizzo made this offseason, such as signing free agents Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Marquis and trading for Brian Bruney.
Capps also liked the fact that Washington is giving him a chance to be a closer. He will battle Bruney for the role.
"It's nothing [Rizzo had to say] -- he already done it with the moves that he has made," Capps said. "I wanted to find an opportunity to win right away and have a commitment to the future. I feel like they have done a great job of showing that with the guys they are trying to bring in and the guys they have brought in.
"As far as with me, it's just the opportunity to continue to close -- the chance to come in with an opportunity to compete for that job was important to me. Winning was the biggest part. "
Capps has spent his entire five-year career with the Pirates, collecting 67 saves while posting a 3.61 ERA. He was non-tendered by Pittsburgh on Dec. 12 after having his worst season in the big leagues. He played in 57 games and saved 27 of them with a 5.80 ERA. Even worse, opponents hit .324 against him.
Capps acknowledged that his fastball, which is usually clocked between 92 and 96 mph, didn't have any movement. So he didn't rely on it as much as he should have.
"During the first two or three years, [the fastball] was my bread and butter," Capps said. "When things were going good, I was throwing my fastball, I was locating it and pitching off of it. Last year, at times, it kind of went backwards and I paid for it."
Still, Capps said he was shocked that the Pirates let him go.
"I really didn't see it happening with the track record on how they try to do things," Capps said about the Pirates. "It kind of surprised me, and then the shock and [I had] fear at first, but it turned into excitement within the next couple of days."
Capps' stats in 2009 did not scare the Nationals. About five minutes after it was announced that Capps was non-tendered, assistant general manager Bryan Minniti expressed interest in the right-hander. According to agent Paul Kinzer, both Rizzo and Minniti were calling Kinzer at least three times per day until a deal was done.
"They were aggressive and they didn't let up," Kinzer said. "It was every day. I got to know them too well. Every day it was three to five calls a day. They were persistent and they sold Matt on the team. He knew guys. They were calling him. They did a nice job recruiting him. Everybody thought it was a slam dunk for the Cubs and he loved the Cubs."
It's not the first time the Nationals had interest in Capps. They tried to acquire his services prior to last year's Trade Deadline.
"Matt was on our map for a long time," Rizzo said. "He encompasses everything we are trying to do here -- young, character, hard nose, guts on the mound, not afraid, a winning attitude on and off the field. He is a guy we identified. We went after him hard. We used all our tools all the allure of Washington, D.C. -- the new ballpark, the up-and-coming franchise, the teammates who will be around him. We got lucky enough to talk him into coming over here.
"I want him in my foxhole, because he is going to come in with it. I feel comfortable. When the bullpen gates swing open, I'm happy that No. 55 is coming out of the bullpen. That's all the evaluation I needed. His stuff is there. He was 92 to 96 [mph] consistently throughout the season.
"I talked to several guys who hit against him. I talked to many, many scouts who had seen him many more times than I did. I look at it like I usually do -- with the glass half full. If he didn't post a five-something ERA, he wouldn't be sitting here right now."
Capps becomes the third ex-Pirate acquired by the Nationals in less than a year. On June 30, 2009, Rizzo acquired center fielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett from Pittsburgh in exchange for outfielder Lastings Milledge and right-hander Joel Hanrahan.
"It's very nice to know someone on a personal level before you get here. Nyjer and Burney are not the only two," Capps said. "I got to know quite a few of the guys over the years while competing against them. I got to know Adam Dunn fairly well when he was in Cincinnati. Josh Willingham [is from] Alabama. My wife is pretty much from the same area he is from. There are a few guys that I know a little more personally."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.