The Capps effect

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Here’s an early Christmas present for Nationals fans: Matt Capps indeed came to terms with Washington early this morning (nearly 2 a.m.) on a one-year contract. The deal is for $3.5 million, with some incentives that could push his salary up to nearly $4 million if he closes out enough games in 2010.

You’ve got to believe Capps will get plenty of opportunities to close with the Nats. He immediately becomes Washington’s ninth-inning man on the mound, and he’ll be the most-established closer this team has had since Chad Cordero still had a healthy shoulder in 2007.

One important point to make, because there may have been some confusion about this last night. Even though Capps’ deal is for only one year, the Nats do have control of him for two years. He won’t have enough service time to become a free agent until 2012 and thus will be eligible for arbitration one last time next winter. That’s the reason both Washington and Capps were willing to do a one-year contract, and why Capps actually preferred it. This way, if he posts good numbers in 2010, he can either get a nice raise through arbitration or even negotiate a long-term contract with the Nats.

Will Capps be the closer long-term in D.C.? The presumption is no, because Drew Storen will be groomed to take over the role at some point. But there’s no guarantee the recent first-round draft pick will actually perform at the big league level, so if nothing else, this provides the Nats some insurance.

So the 2010 Washington bullpen has been revamped. It’s pretty amazing to see how this unit has transformed over the last 6-8 months. Remember the most-recent Opening Day relief corps? You may not want to look at this. It’s kind of scary…

2009 OPENING DAY BULLPEN

Joel Hanrahan

Joe Beimel

Saul Rivera

Julian Tavarez

Steven Shell

Mike Hinckley

Wil Ledezma

Now, take a look at the new-look relief corps…

2010 PROJECTED BULLPEN

Matt Capps

Brian Bruney

Drew Storen

Sean Burnett

Eddie Guardado

Tyler Clippard

Jason Bergmann

The difference in talent and track record is staggering, and that should make a significant difference next year. I’m not saying this group is going to be the majors’ best bullpen. But I would be stunned if it turns out to be the worst again.

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Mark Zuckerman

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