The Los Angeles Dodgers recently announced the signing of left-handed starting pitcher Chris Capuano to a two-year deal worth 10 million dollars.
As for the specifics, Capuano will make $3 million in 2012 and $6 million in 2013, and he’ll have a $8 million mutual option in 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
In 2011, Capuano posted a 4.55 ERA and a 4.04 FIP in 186 innings to go along with a 21.0 K% and 6.6 BB%. 2011 represented Capuano’s return to full-time duty, as he missed all of 2008 and 2009 due to tearing his labrum at the end of 2007 and tearing his ulnar collateral ligament at the start of 2008.
I started him off assuming an ERA of around 4.25 with 170 innings pitched, and since he’ll be 33 in 2011 with a history of injury, began to regress him from there.
Previously, when I took a cursory look at the Dodgers interest in him, I came away rather impressed, saying that he’s somebody worth looking at. However, a deeper look at this deal does reveal certain problems.
Capuano’s injury history can’t be ignored, as having significant shoulder and elbow surgeries is a gigantic red flag for any team, and given that 2011 was his first time throwing over 150 innings since 2006, it’s hard to rationalize penciling Capuano in as a fifth starter innings eater type. Additionally, he averaged less than six innings a start, running out of gas the second and third time through the order, so there’s no bullpen saving quality either.
I still don’t have a problem with the first year of the deal though, as it’s certainly worth taking a shot at a risky pitcher with solid peripherals like Capuano for 1 year at $4-5 million. As a fly ball pitcher (~40%), you figure that he should find Dodger Stadium to his welcoming, and if he stays healthy, it could end up being a bargain. However, guaranteeing the second year is what’s confusing given his age, obvious injury risk, and question marks about performance.
Overall, Capuano is hard to put a number on precisely because there’s such a large variation between his potential upside (~2.5 WAR/~200 IP) and his historical downside (~0.0 WAR/~0 IP). In vacuum, he should be mediocre to solid like Ted Lilly has been, but like with Lilly, you have to wonder if Capuano’s signing is the best use of money.
Given what the Dodgers sacrificed (Hiroki Kuroda) to sign Capuano and a bunch of replacement level filler, I find it hard to like this deal. Granted, Capuano himself is probably the least offensive part of the Dodgers off-season moves, but his contract in the context of everything else that surrounds it is certainly puzzling.