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Closer today, gone tomorrow?

SEATTLE — With Matt Capps out of the picture the next three days, Shawn Chacon should have no problem stepping in as the Pirates’ closer.

Chacon has performed ably in two jobs already this season. He was excellent in middle relief, the only consistent middle-innings guy in the bullpen. He had less success as a starter, but four starts is a small sample to pass judgement, especially considering he was abruptly switched into that role.

Chacon, like most every pitcher, wants to be a full-time starter. If he can’t be in the rotation, the closer’s job is the next-best thing — high risk, high reward. For the next 72 hours, at least, it’s his.

Last winter, Chacon avoided arbitration by signing a one-year contract for $3.825 million. As a starter, he’d be a bargain — even considering his contract includes incentive clauses that would pay Chacon $50,000 for pitching 160 innings, $50,000 for 180 innings and $125,000 for 200 innings. At his current pace, Chacon is on track for 131 innings this season, but likely will wind up with less than that if he stays with the Pirates.

As we prepare to turn the corner into the trading frenzy part of the summer, Chacon would seem to be a good candidate to be traded. Reasonable salary, adequate talent. The only thing missing is for the Pirates to again be sellers at the trade deadline.

We should have our answer by the All-Star break. The Pirates play seven games at home against the top two contenders for the NL Central title, Milwaukee and Chicago. At the break, the Pirates could still be in the hunt, or they could be buried, facing a double-digit deficit in the division.

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