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The pros and cons of the closers

With the snow falling and the world shutting down, we need only an unbearably lame segue (sorry, sorry) to transition toward another shut-down topic. Yup, time to discuss closers. And more specifically, it's time to compare two closers who were both non-tendered last week -- Mike MacDougal and Matt Capps. MacDougal was Washington's closer in 2009; then the Nats got rid of him. Capps was Pittsburgh's closer from 2007-09; then the Bucs got rid of him.

So who would you rather have? Right now, the Nationals are making a good run at Capps, who'd like to pick a new team before Christmas. According to agent Paul Kinzer, the Nats are one of the finalists to sign him. Perhaps if things fall apart with Capps Washington can flirt with re-signing MacDougal, but for now, it seems like the organization would like to pull off the closer swap.

Here's how things stack up between the two, in this unscientific tale of the tape.

In a few basic (but limited) ways, they are comparable pitchers. Both are righties, deemed expendable because arbitration had them lined up for a raise in 2010. MacDougal made $2.65 million last year. Capps made $2.425 million. Capps is 26 and MacDougal is 32, but let's be honest, the age category is kind of a wash when looking for a stop-gap solution at the back end of the bullpen. Drew Storen will be ready for this job well before either player gets his AARP subscription.

But here's the biggest difference. MacDougal is coming off a strong statistical season (Nats only: 52 G, 3.60 ERA, 20-for-21 in save chances), perhaps his best since that 2003 all-star year aberration with Kansas City. Capps, meantime, is coming off his very worst pro season. After posting a 2.28 ERA in 2007 and a 3.02 ERA in 2008, seemingly locking down the Buccos' closer's job long-term, Capps let things slip away big-time. His 2009 numbers: a 4-8 record, a 5.80 ERA and 27 saves in 32 chances.

So here, more centrally, is the question:

Given that both had potentially outlier-type seasons, how much do we read into those 2009 numbers? What kind of return to the mean should be expected? Even if neither player is a sure thing, who offers the greater chance for predictability?

My answer: Capps.

When looking for clues about Capps' sudden ineffectiveness in 2009, a few numbers jump out. First of all, his walk total skyrocketed. After walking six batters unintentionally in '07 and five in '08, he walked 14 unintentionally last season. Also, his home run totals soared. He allowed 10 dingers last year (54-1/3 IP), with a frequency just about doubling what he'd done previously. Also, as noted here, his changeup seemed to lose effectiveness.

There's a way to read all this and see bounce-back potential. If Capps can regain his change-up, he has three strong pitches -- two more than MacDougal has. Also, Capps' BABIP (opponents' batting average on balls in play) was a whopping .370 last year, an unsustainable rate that was well above the league average of .297. BABIP is generally regarded as a tell-tale for fluke-like seasons. Numbers guru Bill James, in his 2010 projections for Capps, calls for a 3.47 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP with walk rates, home run rates and the opponents' average on balls in play all returning to normal.

For MacDougal, it's hard to envision him repeating his 2009 success. (And this is even without considering his late-season hip injury and subsequent arthroscopic surgery.) MacDougal thrived last year mostly because of one pitch, a vicious upper-90s fastball, which he threw 95.4-percent of the time. He kept his control problems -- a plague for much of his career -- largely in check. But there was an element of his style that somehow recalled an Indiana Jones action scene, and MacDougal was always just one step ahead of some horrible boulder rolling down a mountain.

Why be worried about MacDougal? Because he walks too many and strikes out too few to outrun the boulder forever. MacDougal in 2009 (and again, I'm just using his numbers with the Nats) walked 5.58 batters per nine innings. Even Capps, with career-worst totals, walked 2.82 per nine. Just out of curiosity, I called up a few customized searches on statspass.com, and here are a few interesting things to note:

* Among the 29 MLBers with 20 or more save opportunities last season, MacDougal had by far the lowest K/9 IP rate (5.63). He also had the highest BB/9 IP rate.

* Now, what about baserunners per nine innings? Among the same 29 closers, only Brad Lidge (17.03) was worse than MacDougal (15.40).

* Among those same 29 closers, MacDougal was tied for first with DET's Fernando Rodney in ground-ball double plays. MacDougal got 12 in 54-1/3 IP. Rodney got 12 in 75-2/3. No other closer got more than 7 GDPs all year.

By Chico Harlan  |  December 19, 2009; 11:35 AM ET
 
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Next: Nats to sign Marquis

Comments

Chico: Your'e preaching to the choir - Capps would be a good fit in the Nationals bullpen. He & Bruney can battle over the 8th inning / closer roles, and Storen can polish his game in SYR to start the year.

Posted by: BinM | December 19, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm convinced. Mac is always a disaster waiting to happen. He dodged alot of bullets last year, but it's hard to imagine that continuing. He gives us 110%, but it's probably not enough. Let's see, what other cliches can I use here.

Thanks for the snowday post Chico.

Posted by: Section222 | December 19, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Capps signing here would be a good Xmas present. Marquis would be an excellent present.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 19, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

MacDougal was a Hanrahan waiting to happen in every single one of his save opportunities last year. Go with Capps. It's a no-brainer. Also, at six years younger than MacDougal he will be around in the bullpen longer for the 7th or 8th even if he doesn't close. As we found out painfully last year, there's more to a bullpen than just the closer.

Posted by: nunof1 | December 19, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Is it one or the other, necessarily? I doubt anyone will pay Macdougal over $2 million, but I could be wrong--Rumors has up to 10 teams "showing interest."

Assuming Storen doesn't have to come up before September, is there a better option available for the seventh inning than MacDougal? Tyler Clippard? They got Garate from the Dodgers at the end of last year, and he's still on the roster (is he hurt?), so if he, and Bruney, and Capp, can still be effective late, that's a bullpen. Add loogy and serve.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Capps is really an 8th inning guy. MacDougal could be a fine closer if he stuck with his best stuff and threw for strikes. I'd like to see the Nats bring in both and let 'em sort it out. If I had to pick one, I suppose Capps, but mostly because he could be part of the bullpen for years to come.

Posted by: fischy | December 19, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

And by "effective" I mean not blowing more than an MLB-average number of saves (around a third, IIRC).

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Macdougal would be for 2010 only in any event, so if there's a halfway decent chance he could stay lucky for even a few more months, he might be worth something like $1.5MM.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Either option should be viewed as a short-term bridge to Storen. Six to one, a half-dozen to the other. MacDougal had some truly hideous smoke-and-mirrors saves this past season, Capps? Didn't see enough of him to tell anything.

Posted by: leetee1955 | December 19, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"Drew Storen will be ready for this job well before either player gets his AARP subscription."

Well-run teams never bank on prospects being the eventual answer before they are ready to be put into the role at the big league level. Especially prospects with only half a year of pro ball under their belt. Hope for the best as far as prospects and their ultimate ability to contribute is concerned, but plan for the worst when building your big league team.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 19, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Why not both? Neither one is going to cost a whole lot, and we still need bullpen help. Make it a 3 way battle for the closer role and the two other guys become setup guys.

Posted by: chris88 | December 19, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Nice analysis. I'd love the early Christmas present of a free agent signing.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 19, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Rosenthal reporting Nats in heavy pursuit of Garland. Negotiating between 2 and 3 years.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 19, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

OK, my comments yesterday notwithstanding, Jose Valverde isn't worth losing a top draft pick, but FWIW, he *is* still available. Just thought I'd throw that out there for context.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the weekend, snow day post, Chico. I'm not a stats type but it would seem that you make a compelling case for Capps (plus, watching MacDougal can be bad for the old BP, and I'm not talking batting practice).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 19, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Still, it might be useful to keep the Phillies from getting him.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Just a guess here, but should the Bucs lose Capps, is Hanrahan his replacement? In other words, if the Nats get Capps, he would in turn be the replacement for the replacement of Hanrahan...huh.

Posted by: cokedispatch | December 19, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the post Chico. Agree with most that a signing in the next few days would be welcome. Also think both would be a good idea and echo CIL that you do not count on a prospect (look at Zimmermann) - they will both come relatively cheap and you can't have enough pitching - Is it possible we can sign both Marquis and Garland?, that would get me excited.

Posted by: sjm3091 | December 19, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I hated watching MacDougal pitch, he was always on the brink. Seemed like he was always behind in the count with too many walks and wild pitches. Nobody came up swinging because he was so wild. Didn't get many border line called strikes either because of the wildness. He was only effective by being wild in the strike zone. Don't remember many 1-2-3 innings. Might not be too much of a risk to sign him at a lower salary to see if he can regain control but certainly not as the preferred closr.

Posted by: SackMan | December 19, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget, Capps had elbow troubles for much of the year; he was listed as day-to-day several times in 2009.

I think that had as much to do with his sub-par 2009 as anything.

Posted by: rushfari | December 19, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Make it happen. It'll be one step of several to achieve a .500 record, How about the snow folks??

Posted by: tgerbracht | December 19, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"Well-run teams never bank on prospects being the eventual answer before they are ready to be put into the role at the big league level. Especially prospects with only half a year of pro ball under their belt."

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 19, 2009 1:34 PM
_________________________________________________________

This one sure does. Thanks Uncle Teddy and StanK.

Posted by: Section505203 | December 19, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

from rosenthal: The Washington Nationals are in on Jon Garland, Doug Davis and Jason Marquis, reports FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says Garland wants a three-year contract but that the Nationals prefer to give him two years.

Rosenthal also lists Jason Marquis and Doug Davis and possible targets for Washington.

and from espn: The Washington Nationals have an interest in free agent outfielder Randy Winn, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.

Washington's outfield currently consists of Josh Willingham in left field, Nyjer Morgan in center and Elijah Dukes in right. Winn has some appeal to the Nationals because he can play all three outfield spots, and he's a solid professional who could be a positive influence on the mercurial Dukes.

Winn is hoping to land a job as a starter, but he's finding it a challenge after posting a .671 OPS and hitting .158 from the right side with San Francisco in 2009. Winn recently completed a three-year, $23.25 million deal with the Giants.

Posted by: sec231 | December 19, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The 2010 Nats mantra: mediocrity now. :-)

The snow is amazing. We have maybe 18" of the white stuff at present, with more coming down. Haven't ventured out with the yardstick or camera yet, though 1c has shoveled the driveway once. (Hey - I was on card-writing duty, okay?)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 19, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

have to wonder, with cinci looking to dump harang and his salary, what it might cost to get him and how well he'll pitch in the next season or two. not quite as good the last two years as he has been, but still a solid rotation guy.

Posted by: sec231 | December 19, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Since 2005, Capps has given up about 1 HR/9 more than MacDougal 3 out of 5 years. MacDougal's best skill is no longer the strikeout, it is the worm-burner. A pretty consistent 2+:1 GB/FB ratio even in his off years. In contrast, Capps is a fly ball pitcher (4:5 same ratio for his career). Capps also reportedly has had shoulder issues the past couple of years.

Even with these red flags, I prefer Capps to close, but I would take MacDougal back as a 7th inning guy at $1 - 1.5m, and offer him a bonus based on number of games finished in case we need to shift him to closer. He is not going to get more than that on the market. He was freely available to anyone after his release last year, so that is good money for a replacement player. If Capps thinks he's getting $3m+, I think about settling for Mac.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 19, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

sec231 - I'd be interested in Harang or Arroyo if the years get to be too long for Garland / Davis.

Also, I prefer Willie to Winn at this point in his career. Neither is a real CF any more. Willie is a better offensive player (on base 133 out of 393 plate appearances last year). Winn is probably the better RF, though. I'd rather see the 5th outfielder be Jerry Owens who has 2 very good skills - speed and a CF glove.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 19, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Nice analysis, Chico. "An Indiana Jones action scene..."

Indeed.

Posted by: Section220 | December 19, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"Capps also reportedly has had shoulder issues the past couple of years."

That's my main concern, jca. I see the fact that he "let things slip away big time" last season as a red flag that there might be an injury he's been hiding - perhaps one that'll require season (or career)-ending surgery.

Posted by: MikeH0714 | December 19, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I remember long disquisitions on how the Chief was not the real deal as closer cause he didn't throw hard enough. Then you see somebody like MacDougal constantly walking people and you realize there are worse things than not having an overpowering fastball.

Garland would be a nice acquisition and send a nice signal. I don't understand why the guy doesn't get more respect.

Posted by: markfromark | December 19, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Along with the gossip about Garland, Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Cubs want a centerfielder and the team approached the Nationals about making a trade for Nyjer Morgan. No details about what the Cubs might have offered. According to Rosenthal the Nats aren't interested.

The Cubbies may fill their center field hole with former Nat Marlon Byrd.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 19, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, whoever they get will never have entry music as cool as Hail to the Chief. I miss that.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Actually they never played Hail to the Chief for Cordero in the ballpark. That was only on the radio. I forget what his entry music was at the park, but I seem to remember a siren going off when he came in.

Posted by: nunof1 | December 19, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

true, nunof. In the park he used "King Nothing" by Metallica
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFBbOHohwR8

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Sorry. Beimel's was hands-down the best:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG7aS07dAN0

Posted by: NatsNut | December 19, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Chico, I just read your post about going to Japan. The best book I read before going there was "Confucius Lives Next Door," by TR Reid, who is one of your predecessors at the Tokyo bureau. Also, make sure you visit Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Okinawa. Have fun.

Posted by: paulkp | December 19, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Just the mention of Cordero gets my wife's blood boiling. The Chief blew a 6-3 lead in the ninth-inning in the rain at RFK against Atlanta and she wanted to go home. Instead, I had to force her to stay through the end of a 13-inning loss. Still hasn't fully forgiven either me or the Chief.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 19, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Sunshine, you might remind her the Baseball Gods are unrelenting in enforcing karma. I know whereof I speak.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 19, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Step away from Nyjer, Cubbies. grrr... I always liked Marlon, but you are welcome to him. Just stay away from Tony Plush.

---

Along with the gossip about Garland, Ken Rosenthal is reporting the Cubs want a centerfielder and the team approached the Nationals about making a trade for Nyjer Morgan. No details about what the Cubs might have offered. According to Rosenthal the Nats aren't interested.

The Cubbies may fill their center field hole with former Nat Marlon Byrd.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 19, 2009 7:42 PM |

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 20, 2009 5:58 AM | Report abuse

Since the subject line is part of the bullpen (closers), I'm taking a look at the entire bullpen, as of today:

The Nationals have 10 relief pitchers on staff - Clippard, Bergmann, Bruney, & Ryan Mattheus are right-handed; Burnett, Slaten, Garate, M. Chico, Jesse English, & Atahualpa Severino are left-handed.

I could see six of them (Clippard, Chico, Burnett, Bergmann, Slaten & Bruney) making the team to start 2010, leaving a slot available for either a FA acquisition (Capps, or a MacDougal re-sign), or a non-roster coming out of Viera (Peralta, Storen, Wilkie?). Thoughts, anyone?

Posted by: BinM | December 20, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I've been pretty tolerant of trades when they've happened, all along.

But if the Nats trade away Nyjer, they will alienate me profoundly. The team didn't even start to look halfway decent until he joined the team, and they slipped back down into the gutter when he broke his hand.

Leave Nyjer alone! Let him play center and charge up the clubhouse!

Posted by: shepdave2003 | December 20, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

If the Nationals were to consider trading Nyjer to the Cubs, I would hope the asking price would be Dempster. If the Cubs were agreeable, the FO here would have to give that a great deal of thought, imo.

Posted by: BinM | December 20, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Deep breaths. It said the Cubs were asking, not that the Nationals were considering it.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I can see Marlon Byrd in Wrigley in left easier than center, but the residual Cubs fan in me would rather see Rick Ankiel, if only to stick it to the Cardinals.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Yabbut, I think that the Cubbies have this other guy locked in at left field. Big contract. Perhaps you've heard of him. Alfonso, I think his name is?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 20, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

That guy from Japan? Didn't they move him to second base?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think I have the Cubs in the "Where does Kearns end up?" pool.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't like the idea that anyone is 'off the table', even the great and glorious Nyjer Morgan. Now personally I would volenteer to carry the man around DC in a sedan chair if asked but, if we got a shortstop and or starter of enough value, why not?

It's a trade, which I'm pretty sure means we get stuff back. Not that the Cubs would give us enough to make it worth our while.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 20, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Cheers, Austin.

http://static.reelmovienews.com/images/gallery/austin-powers.jpg

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 20, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I think FoF is O-F-F. Strasburg and Storen are off by rule, at least this year. But Morgan, yeah, if the deal included a true leadoff hitter/middle infielder who could start now. But I think he's more valuable to DC than he is to the Cubs, so the trade would have to reflect that.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Not necessarily. Which reminds me, the Dodgers signed Jamey Carroll the other day. They're paying him (2 years) about 10x what Bowden got for him. http://tinyurl.com/y8vorrs
**********
It's a trade, which I'm pretty sure means we get stuff back....
Posted by: soundbloke | December 20, 2009 2:56 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Wow sec3, bowden really left a scar. I should have been more clear: Rizzo would get something back for Morgan.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 20, 2009 6:17 PM | Report abuse

indeed.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 20, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

chirp chirp

Posted by: thepostischeap | December 20, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

...(tumbleweed rolls by)...

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | December 21, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

*koff koff*

Posted by: Scooter_ | December 21, 2009 3:36 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, I thought they'd have to go as high as four years to land him. For a team like the Nats, the extra year is what gets the deal done. For some reason, I imagined at least one other team offering three years.

-----

Rosenthal reporting Nats in heavy pursuit of Garland. Negotiating between 2 and 3 years.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 21, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

We have to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately!

Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!

[pointing to a member of the constituency] I didn't get a "harrumph" out of that guy!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I am one of those that believes that a "closer" is a luxury (considering how much a truly good one gets paid) something not really needed on a team that won't be winning and is not ready to spend big. Maybe in a few years when the Nationals hopefully are challenging for the division is the need for a closer more acute.

I think for 2010, the bullpen can get by with whomever and would rather the team spend the closer money elsewhere for now.

Posted by: luckyute | December 21, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

luckyute: While I understand your position against the Nationals spending $$ on a "truly good" closer, every team would like to have one or two pitchers in the bullpen who can be relied on to finish games.

The Nationals found one off the waiver wire last year in MacDougal. They may have one for this year in Bruney, and their pursuit of someone like Capps is not a bad decision either. A soft bullpen can lose a lot of games (see Nationals' bullpen from April - June, 2009).

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I am one of those that believes "closers" are an overrated commodity. Come in with bases empty and a lead, and get 3 outs before giving up 1, 2, or maybe 3 runs. Any good major league pitcher should succeed at that most of the time. I'm more impressed with the guy who can come in with bases loaded and nobody out (whatever the inning), and shut down the rally.

MacDougal makes me nervous in either scenario.
-------------
Posted by luckyute: I am one of those that believes that a "closer" is a luxury (considering how much a truly good one gets paid)

Posted by: KenNat | December 21, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

For my part, I'm one of the "this is entertainment, rings are secondary" heretics. Average money should get (at least) an average closer, but given the much more reasonable offense we anticipate in 2010, and taking them at their word that they'll sign Garland or someone like him, maybe both, so that the SP is collectively closer to league average, in THAT case, then I think a case can be made for a monster, lights-out (say, 90%), intimidating as hell closer. It may be nobody like that is available--Valverde is probably closest--but even on mediocre teams, the idea "if they can just get to the eighth..." makes it a lot more fun to watch.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

There are no "shoulds" in baseball.

The major league average for blown saves is about 1 in 3 chances--that's your "most of the time." If just anybody could do that, no one would get paid extra for it.

But the real difference, like most positions, isn't the average player, it's the good ones. There aren't that many elite closers at any one time, because closers usually don't last long. Hoffmans and Riveras are rare. Those are guys people pay money to see. Even Chief, in that one good year of Houdini acts.

**********************
I am one of those that believes "closers" are an overrated commodity. Come in with bases empty and a lead, and get 3 outs before giving up 1, 2, or maybe 3 runs. Any good major league pitcher should succeed at that most of the time. I'm more impressed with the guy who can come in with bases loaded and nobody out (whatever the inning), and shut down the rally.
-------------
Posted by luckyute: I am one of those that believes that a "closer" is a luxury (considering how much a truly good one gets paid)
---------
Posted by: KenNat | December 21, 2009 10:44 AM |

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Nobody seems to think Macdougal can sustain his success last year (20/21). I'd be willing to find out how long his luck holds, under the circumstances, but if they're trying to lure quality free-agents they're going to have to overpay somehow--why not spread it around. Seems like it would be easier to attract a starter if they see you have a real bullpen.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

It's not like the budget is so tight that the Nats have to choose between a Closer and another player. Sign a closer, two starting pitchers, and a position player then make a trade or two to balance out the roster. I don't really understand the logic behind "a closer is a luxory" argument because every asset the team can add becomes an asset that can be used tp trade or offset other trades later. Just don't give up a draft pick for one of them....

BTW, none - zero - of the free agent starting pitchers would make a quality #2 starter on a championship team. Marquis and Garland are potential middle of the rotation starters, but neither one of them would get the second or even third start of the playoffs. I'd be quite happy with Garland and/or Marquis, but they are somewhat limited and both serve up a lot of baserunners. That helps explain the Rodriquez signing. All the free agent pitchers on the market have high WHIPS. IRod is not there just for the young pitchers. He's there for the old guys too.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 21, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Amen, biscuits.
The cost-offset argument is very relevant to a team like the Dodgers, who can't add payroll, but the Nationals don't have that problem just now.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"I am one of those that believes that a "closer" is a luxury (considering how much a truly good one gets paid) something not really needed on a team that won't be winning and is not ready to spend big."

This is backwards thinking. Watching Ws go up in smoke due to a bad bullpen is really tough on good young starting pitching like that which the Nats (supposedly) have and are trying to develop. Plus, it makes those young starters press too hard when they are in the game because they believe their margin for error is so small, as opposed to just relaxing and learning to pitch in the big leagues. That leads to bad habits, and perhaps injuries. A good bullpen is hardly a luxury for a team that is trying to build based on starting pitching.

And besides, who says that the Nats aren't "ready to spend big?" I'm not certain that they need to "spend big" to get a decent closer, but if they do, why do you suggest that they can't, or aren't "ready" to?

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | December 21, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the delay, natsfan1a1; my "harrumph" was snowed in.

--------------

[pointing to a member of the constituency] I didn't get a "harrumph" out of that guy!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2009 8:56 AM

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 21, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Remember, it's not "compared to perfect," it's "compared to the available alternatives."
Suppose Jose Valverde is the best available closer, just for the sake of argument, and grant that he can do as well as he did last year in Houston (74-88, which would be a reasonable improvement for DC)-- 52 appearances, 45 games finished, 29 save opportunities, 4 blown saves.
What would that be worth compared to Macdougal, who *might* be able to duplicate it, but probably not? Compared to Bruney, likewise?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

This from Rob Neyer on ESPN.com: "Mariano Rivera is a closer. So is Joe Nathan, and Francisco Cordero, and Jonathan Papelbon. A few others, for sure. But most "closers" have that label simply because some manager decided that this pretty good reliever had more guts than that pretty good reliever."

These are reasonable words from a knowledgable baseball writer. What the Nationals seek is a pitcher that Riggleman can trust in the ninth inning - If he proves that trust, he becomes a teams' "closer".

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Or Matt Capps: 57 games, 50 finished, 32 saves out of 37 chances, but 4-8 -- that's a lot of losses for a closer. He's only 25, but he's been up for a while now, and probably is more likely to get hurt than get better.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I hear what you're saying, but Neyer is being disingenuous. It's not "simply because some manager decided"; it's that, AND they succeeded in the job. Not everyone does.

*************
This from Rob Neyer on ESPN.com: "Mariano Rivera is a closer. So is Joe Nathan, and Francisco Cordero, and Jonathan Papelbon. A few others, for sure. But most "closers" have that label simply because some manager decided that this pretty good reliever had more guts than that pretty good reliever."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

unless that was his point.
Which, on second reading ...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | December 21, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Matt Capps may be more of an insurance policy depending on how well Storen does. He is 26 with 3 pitches? Sounds like a handy guy to have in the bullpen just in general. Good move if they pull it off?

Posted by: periculum | December 21, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

periculum: Storen isn't even on the 40-man yet, and I think the Nationals would like to keep it that way as long as possible. Now if he throws "lights out" in Viera, he may force the issue.

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Just reported on MLBTR - The Indians have signed Saul Rivera to a minor-league deal. BWahahahahahahahahahaha...

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness. Think they'd have an interest in Logan Kensing?

__________________
Just reported on MLBTR - The Indians have signed Saul Rivera to a minor-league deal. BWahahahahahahahahahaha...
Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 1:27 PM

Posted by: Section222 | December 21, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

*BREAKING NEWS* Nats set to sign Jason Marquis according to Byron Kerr on MASNsports.com

Nats to sign Jason Marquis
By Byron Kerr on December 21, 2009 1:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
MASNsports.com has learned that the Nationals will sign starting pitcher Jason Marquis. Stay tuned for more on this breaking story.


http://masnsports.com/2009/12/nats-to-sign-jason-marquis.html

Posted by: FloresFan | December 21, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

@FloresFan

Casey Sterne just mentioned the same thing in passing on MLB on XM.

Posted by: leetee1955 | December 21, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Here's MLBTradeRumors post:

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/12/nationals-to-sign-jason-marquis.html#comments

I think Bill Ladson is already reporting it so it looks like the deal is done.

Great signing IMO. I think we need to sign one more veteran SP and if we can add Capps to the mix, I would be a very happy camper. Good job so far Rizzo.

Posted by: FloresFan | December 21, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I'll reserve judgement until I see the terms of the contract, but it sure beats sending some of the pitchers the Nats sent to the mound last year.

Posted by: jfromPG | December 21, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

The Marquis signing would be a good one to fill the 40-man (for now). That would put 25 pitchers on the roster, meaning that any other signing would cause trimming from that side of the roster; Not saying that's a bad thing.

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Marquis. Not bad at all.

Posted by: js_edit | December 21, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean the Nats are out of the running for Garland?

Posted by: js_edit | December 21, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Um, wow? The FO just keeps getting things done.

I'm waiting to hear the details of the deal, but it makes me wonder how many more FAs they'll sign. I guess Olsen and Bruney weren't really the high-risk FA pitchers Kasten is afraid of. But it stands to reason they're not going to get Marquis, Garland, and Smoltz.

Or even two of those three, right?

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 21, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of the terms, Rizzo beat out the home town fav in the Mets, which is a good sign.

Perhaps the first benefit reaped from the Pudge signing? All in all, I'm pretty stoked to get our guy.

Posted by: sec307 | December 21, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It's nice to have a marquis name in the rotation.

Posted by: paulkp | December 21, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean the Nats are out of the running for Garland?

Posted by: js_edit | December 21, 2009 2:58 PM |

#################################################

Hopefully not. A front three of Marquis, Lannan and Garland would give the young'uns more development time in SYR and HAR.

Posted by: leetee1955 | December 21, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

He is the guy I wanted, I just hope it isn't then end of Rizzo's magic. Lets see the naysayers on the board poke holes in this signing now.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 21, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

But we were promised two FA pitchers... one down, one to go.

Posted by: sec307 | December 21, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Marquis is a nice pick up, depending on the terms and all, but he's only part of what the club needs. They still need another 200 innings of front line SP and he's an innings eater, more of a 3 than an Ace. They need something closer to an Ace.

Someone who can throw it by people would be great. Maybe try to trade for Gil Meche (hard throwingt lefty works well in our division). I'd think Derek Lowe and some relief from his salary might be good return for Willingham, but he and Marquis are very similar pitchers.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 21, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

My guess is that the Nats will now be out on Garland; they were probably telling Garland and Marquis that only one was going to be signed, and Marquis blinked first. They may still sign Smoltz to the infamous "incentive-laden" one-year deal.

Posted by: jcj5y | December 21, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Marquis signs while Chico Harlan sleeps. Even Bill Ladson and Byron Kerr are scooping the Post now.

Posted by: section309 | December 21, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

better marquis than livo the human batting practice machine, he of the .325 BA against the past two seasons.

Posted by: surly_w | December 21, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

The Nats needed to sign a few of the middle level free agents to both improve the club and show to future free agents that Washington is not just a place to bide time for a year in search of a bigger contract. The Dunn signing was a first step. IRod and Marquis are the next steps. Acquiring either a 2B or SP for 2-3 years would be good. Right now the Nats have to pay a premium to get even these guys to come here before spring training starts. At that time remaining free agents are essentially just looking for a contract anywhere. We got Dunn that way and it is unlikely we can get many more the same way. Getting the payroll over $60M isn't asking for much. Another slightly premium signing won't break the bank.

Posted by: mikeladd123 | December 21, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I don't think this effects Garland. From what I've read, we're about the only team mentioned with him. One of these guys had to sign first. Hopefully this signing contributes to the idea that DC is a team on the rise with money to spend.

Posted by: sec307 | December 21, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Merry Christmas! Rizzon had said he was after two pitchers - its possible Garland is still an option, but Doug Davis may be in consideration as well.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 21, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Marquis signs while Chico Harlan sleeps. Even Bill Ladson and Byron Kerr are scooping the Post now.
**********************************
maybe chico saw all of this weekend's snow and started hibernating.

Posted by: surly_w | December 21, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

So glad I have the posters at NJ to keep me updated about breaking Nats news.

Posted by: Section222 | December 21, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't mind too much if Chapman were the other SP. Just sayin'.

Posted by: sec307 | December 21, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Don't put Jason's name on the marquee just yet
By Phil Wood on December 21, 2009 2:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
As Maxwell Smart used to say, "Missed it by that much..."

There are reports that the Nationals and free agent righthander Jason Marquis have come to terms on a contract, but my own sources say it's not yet a done deal - but very, very close.

___________________________________


appears it might not be a done deal yet

Posted by: kgwcoach | December 21, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"Coming to terms" just means that he'll have to fly to DC for a physical from the good Dr. D.; If he passes that, they'll announce the signing. Given the weather, it might take a day or two to get that done.

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Despite Phil's reporting, Hazel Mae says it's a two-year deal (via MLBTR).

Posted by: sec307 | December 21, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"Phil Wood: There are reports that the Nationals and free agent righthander Jason Marquis have come to terms on a contract, but my own sources say it's not yet a done deal - but very, very close."

Chico Harlan's own sources right now are saying "Try the fugu."

Posted by: section309 | December 21, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Mark Feinsand (NY Daily News) reports 2-yr, $15M via twitter.

Posted by: BinM | December 21, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

2 years/$15 mil?

http://twitter.com/BloggingBombers

Posted by: js_edit | December 21, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

A few quick thoughts ...

1. It appears that the Nationals' general manager gets what he goes after. I am impressed. (And I didn't have to wait to hear how much the contract is for, because ... wait for it ... I don't care what the payroll is!)

2. As 307 et al. said, I was promised two pitchers.

3. Side note on the whole closer discussion (and it has broader relevance as well): when talking about whether someone or something is "worth it" for the team, we too often consider only whether it's worth *the money*. But there are other resources too: the GM's time and attention, scouts' time. I'm not coming down on either side of that particular debate; just pointing out (once again) that there are things besides money.

Posted by: Scooter_ | December 21, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Buster Olney is reporting the deal as confirmed -- 2 years/$15 mil -- pending a physical.

Nice work, Rizzo!

Posted by: js_edit | December 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

If Rizzo got 'er done, good for him. Dang. It's nice having a GM who can do that, isn't it?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I think it's more important to get who we want rather than to get our money's worth. At least at this stage. We're going to have to give an extra year of a few extra million, but once the games begin, nobody's gonna care about the payroll, only the roster. I too am pleased that Rizzo is getting who he wants (and is being given the money to do it, regardless of a guy's "worth"). MLBTR says that the move is "uninspired" and that guys of equal value will be available in March, however, Marquis seems to have the mindset that we're looking for (as well as a clean bill of health) and signing him now may help attract other FA's still out there.

In summary, atta boy, Mikey!

Posted by: sec307 | December 21, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Marquis, Lannan, [2nd Free Agent], Olsen (if healthy), and Detwiler would be considerably better to start the year. Martin, Stammen, Mock, Martis, et al in reserve. Strasburg before the end of the year if we're lucky.

My question is will anybody offer Nats anything of value for one or more of those fifth/sixth starters? For example, would Martis yield another middle infielder or a position prospect?

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 21, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Guys, don't worry about the financial part of it. If the FO deems 2yrs/$15mil a fair deal for Marquis, then that's fine by me. I only care about one aspect of a FA signing or trade acquisition: whether the move makes the MLB club better or not in the next couple of years while our farm system is being upgraded. Hopefully, we'll be serious contenders by 2012. IMO, there's way too much teeth-gnashing over payroll considerations. I think Rizzo's doing a fine job so far and I believe there's more coming before ST.

Posted by: OldSkoolDiehard | December 21, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

New post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 21, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

There had better be more than this, there is not much "magic" in the Marquis signing. And neither Davis nor Garland is very exciting either.

Frugality rules the day yet again. Is getting B-/C+ level, 30-something guys as placeholders really the best play for the Nats? Nats management is sitting on a big pile of money getting ready to punt yet another season before it starts.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 21, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

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