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Bargain Shopping: Chris Capuano

The Twins are reportedly still on the lookout for another starting pitcher, and if the investments in Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia are any indication, they're not looking to sign an impact free agent. Rather than another questionable free agent deal, a trade for Chris Capuano makes a whole lot of sense.

Even Chris Capuano can't believe the Twins gave Kevin Correia a multi-year deal.
Even Chris Capuano can't believe the Twins gave Kevin Correia a multi-year deal.
Chris Trotman

Apparently, the Dodgers really like spending money. They like it so much, in fact, that they shelled out a cool $183MM in guaranteed contracts to two pitchers earlier this month, bringing their total of starters that will earn more than $6MM to eight. It’s not a collection of the most glamorous names in the world, but for teams like the Twins that are probably desperate enough to place a call to Boof Bonser, that’s an enviable position.

I know the Dodgers are really into this spending thing, but I doubt they like it so much that they’re big on the idea of paying Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang a combined $16MM to not pitch in the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jun Ryu, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley. Harang’s contract is pretty ugly ($7MM guaranteed plus a $2MM buyout of his mutual option), but Capuano comes with a reasonable $7MM commitment ($6MM plus a $1MM option buyout).

The Twins had interest in Capuano last offseason, even extending him a two-year offer prior to his deal with the Dodgers, per Ken Rosenthal. Capuano preferred to stay in the National League (can you blame him?) and also probably wasn’t big on the idea of jumping to a 99-loss team. As a trade candidate though, Capuano has no say in his destination this time. And given his success in 2012, the dearth of starting pitching the Twins possess and Terry Ryan’s interest in anything with a pulse, it’s probably a safe bet that he’s interested.

Capuano had a solid 3.72 ERA last season in 198.1 innings of work that was backed by a 3.95 FIP, a 3.97 xFIP and a 3.93 SIERA. He struck out exactly three times as many hitters as he walked (162 vs. 54) – the second straight year he’s posted a K/BB of at least 3.0. And, after losing several years to Tommy John and some shoulder problems, he’s topped 186 frames in back-to-back seasons as well.

His contract allows him to earn another $550K worth of incentives in 2013 that he should attain if he stays healthy. A total of $7.55MM would be more than reasonable for a two-win pitcher like Capuano – especially in a world where Jeremy Guthrie costs $25MM over three years.

Capuano held righties to a .309 OBP in 2012 thanks to his sharp command, but they also hammered 22 homers against him. On average, he gave up a home run to one of every 57 lefties he faced, but one of every 29 right-handers he faced. All things considered, that’s not too terrible.

Capuano’s price tag, of course, is heightened by the fact that the Twins would have to part with something to get him. There’s been talk of a swap with the Pirates for Joel Hanrahan, whom Pittsburgh is trying to move due to his projected salary through arbitration. When the Dodgers are looking at guys the other team is looking to dump for salary purposes as a return, odds are their asking price from the Twins isn’t going to be prohibitive.

Capuano’s hypothetical place on the team is somewhat muddled with Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey in the fold now. With them in the frame, it’s tough to assume there will immediately be enough innings for Capuano, Kyle Gibson, Vance Worley and Scott Diamond. That quartet right there has some semblance of a competent rotation, but we also have to factor in that Correia will now (for some reason) be guaranteed innings in both 2013 and 2014, and Pelfrey will be fighting for starts too.

Opening the season with Capuano, Worley, Diamond, Pelfrey and Correia in the rotation wouldn’t exactly be how any of us drew up our offseason wishlists, but it would be an upgrade over 2012. It could also present the opportunity for a six-man rotation to protect Pelfrey and Gibson’s inning counts early on before flipping one (or more) of Capuano, Pelfrey and Correia at the end of July.