Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Capps' trade value will never be higher than it is now.
Teammates, coaches and others were genuinely happy for Capps when he learned he'd made his first All-Star roster on Sunday. You can debate whether he was the Nats player most worthy of the selection -- and yes, guys like Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Tyler Clippard probably had a stronger case -- but you can't debate what he's meant to this team since arriving last winter.
Which makes this difficult, but necessary, to say: The Nationals need to seriously think about trading Capps before the end of the month.
Trade away one of the most-successful closers in the majors? Trade away the cornerstone of one of the best relief trios in baseball? Trade away a guy who will still be under the Nats' control next season?
Yes, if the offer is right, for one primary reason: Capps' value will never be higher than it is right now.
This is a guy, let's remember, who wasn't tendered a contract by the Pirates in December. Now, that decision was mostly a financial one, but it's not as if dozens of teams were banging on Capps' door offering him a closer's job. Actually, the Nationals were the only team that could guarantee him a spot pitching the ninth inning. Other suitors, like the Cubs, were looking at him in a setup role.
Over the last six months, Capps has re-established himself as a capable big-league closer. Surely, there are a few contending clubs out there who would be interested in his services for the stretch run.
Why wouldn't the Nats want to keep Capps, especially when he'll still be arbitration-eligible next year? Because: 1) The lifespan of a major-league closer is minimal, aside from the rare Hall-of-Famer like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, and 2) They've already got two other potential closers waiting in the wings in Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
Capps has never been considered the long-term answer at the back of the Nationals' bullpen. That job has Storen's name written all over it. Perhaps he's not ready after less than two months in the majors, but Clippard could certainly handle the job for the rest of this season, with Storen groomed to take over in 2011.
This isn't to say Mike Rizzo should just dump Capps on the first GM who comes calling. He needs to get something of value for a guy who's only 26 years old and already owns 89 big-league saves. But if another club is willing to offer a young position player (perhaps a second baseman or outfielder) who could help the Nats in the long run, a Capps trade would make a lot of sense.
What do you think? Should the Nationals make a serious attempt to deal Capps before the July 31 deadline, or should they try to keep the Storen-Clippard-Capps trio together beyond this season?