The Mariners are looking at yet another player we've endorsed, former Dodgers left-hander Chris Capuano. After losing out on Ubaldo Jimenez to the Baltimore Orioles for 4 years, $50 million, the M's obvious need to add another free agent arm is essentially down to Capuano or Ervin Santana, and only one will require a significant investment.
Jimenez managed to get himself the market rate for starting pitchers this late in the game, inking a deal nearly identical to the ones given to Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza. There's no secret about the kind of deal Ervin Santana is going to get, and being the last big name pitcher left on the market, he's going to get it. If the Mariners want Santana, they can't mess around with three years or anything under $48 million. While I wrote about the dangers of Santana earlier last week, he would still improve the Mariners rotation considerably. But so could Chris Capuano, and at significantly less risk.
Capuano is said to be searching for a two-year deal, though one plus an option of sorts is probably more likely at this stage. He was limited to mostly bullpen usage last year thanks to an injury and a crowded Dodgers rotation, and while his ERA was higher than it'd been in 2012, where he posted a 3.72 ERA in 198.1 innings, his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all improved from the year before. The step back in production stemmed from a leap in BABIP (.334) and poor strand rate (68.9%). His past two years put him around a 2.0 fWAR pace, and Steamer has him providing 1.6 fWAR in 2014.
By all accounts other than his age, Capuano looks primed for a bounce-back year, and there's at least some chance he could perform as well as Ervin Santana next year at less than half the cost, and less than half the total commitment. Even if he doesn't, the difference is probably going to be around a single win. For the sake of non-redundancy, here's another look at Eric's excellent endorsement of his services back in December.
Capuano would certainly stop the bleeding to some degree, and he would still leave the door open for the team to add more payroll via free agency (Cruz, Morales) or trade. There's still some good paths left to the remainder of the offseason, and it starts with Capuano and a few other moves, but the team will have to get a little creative. To speculate about what's available on the trade market would be disingenuous. I don't know what's out there, but I know the Mariners are still maybe/probably pretending they have a shortstop battle, and I know they really only have one true starting outfielder on the roster. The fact that Nick Franklin is still here means they haven't gotten what they've wanted...yet. Even with Capuano the team could still stand to add more arms as well, and Oliver Perez is still floating out there, mulling several offers. I bet one of them is from the Mariners.
This offseason has moved at a snail's pace, even after Tanaka was supposed to kickstart the leftovers. The Mariners' decisions to date have been solid, but incomplete. It just isn't enough to get them where they need to be, but getting Capuano and leaving room to do more would be a good start to the final sprint of moves.