Matt Capps Saves Jim Hendry's Job, Signs with Washington Nationals

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IDecember 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14:  Matt Capps #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry almost made another free agent mistake on Wednesday. Thankfully, money means more to some players than the chance to win.

Former Pittsburgh closer Matt Capps, who was on the Cubs radar as a potential setup man for closer Carlos Marmol, agreed to a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals. Capps will reportedly get a base salary of $3.5 million, with another $425K in performance incentives built into the deal.

Adding Capps could have been the final piece in the puzzle that gets Hendry fired if he had taken the money in Chicago.

Hendry has had a really bad last 14 months, and that's being conservative. He dealt a popular, productive player in Mark DeRosa and replaced him with one of the least popular players in Cubs history, Milton Bradley, and arguably the least productive $2 million player in the game, Aaron Miles.

Hendry followed those strokes of genius by "fixing" the bullpen with the addition of Kevin Gregg and "The Gas Can," Aaron Heilman.

He then stayed in his GM box and watched the 2009 season go down the toilet.

This winter, he's at least been proactive in trying to fix the problems he created last winter. He dealt Heilman to Arizona for prospects (I still don't know how), he traded Miles to Oakland with Jake Fox for a few spare parts, and let Gregg walk away as a free agent. The latest move was moving Bradley for perhaps the worst contract in baseball: Carlos Silva.

Because he refused, either by personal conviction or the wishes of his new boss, to add salary until Bradley was out of town, Hendry has missed out on a number of free agents that were reportedly of interest to the Cubs, including Mike Cameron.

Early Thursday morning, Capps made the decision to sign with Washington and saved Hendry from making another mistake.

The biggest problem the Cubs had last year was a lack of quality depth. Hendry's way to fix that this winter has been to re-sign left hander John Grabow for too much money and add a pitcher, Mike Parisi, that couldn't make it into the majors for the rival St. Louis Cardinals.

Parisi was selected in the Rule V Draft, meaning he either stays on the major league roster all season or he goes back to the Cardinals with cash. Last year, Hendry stuck David Patton on the big league roster through the Rule V and refused to let him walk; this year, if Parisi turns out as well as Patton did, the Cubs will have another wasted spot in their bullpen.

Capps, 26, had five blown saves and a bloated 1.66 WHIP last year in Pittsburgh. For reasons I don't understand, some Cubs fans actually wanted a guy coming off a season in which he had a 5.60 ERA and a 4-8 record. My guess is those fans didn't see that Capps allowed 10 home runs in 54 innings in 2009.

To put Capps' five blown saves into perspective, Gregg had seven and Heilman had six last year. That's not good.

Yes, Capps has been a closer in his past, but that doesn't mean the Cubs should have wanted anything to do with the guy. All you have to do is look back 12 months to see what we got out of Gregg to see that this would have been making the same mistake Hendry did last winter.

Hendry should send a nice Thank You card and perhaps some assorted chocolates in a nice holiday box to Capps and his agent this week. After all, by not coming to Chicago, they might have saved him from himself, and the Cubs from having another waste of money on the payroll.


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