Chris Capuano & other good low-profile options

Capuano 300x210 Chris Capuano & other good low profile optionsThe Seattle Mariners have been mentioned in connection with plenty of high-profile names this offseason, and they landed the biggest free agent fish in Robinson Cano. Right now, they look like major players in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, and could be involved with either of Matt GarzaUbaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana. While at least one other major acquisition is probably necessary in order to make a playoff push, the team lacks depth at important positions such as catcher, the starting rotation, and the bullpen. Here are some low-cost moves that could help improve the M’s in those areas.

Starting Pitcher
Right now, the Mariners are thin behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Top prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton could start the year with the big league club, but it’s unlikely they will be in the rotation the whole year. The Steamer depth chart has Erasmo Ramirez listed as the No. 3. Even if they do acquire a big name, they’ll need another arm unless they want to rely on the likes of Brandon MaurerBlake Beavan, or Hector Noesi.

Chris Capuano. The 35 year-old lefty reportedly wants a two-year deal. Still, even with his age and spotty injury history, Capuano would be a bargain for something in the neighborhood of $12 million. Over the past three seasons, he has a K/BB ratio and a swinging strike rate on par with Garza. His ERA isn’t great, but his 98 xFIP- is promising. He threw more sinkers than ever in 2013, and that resulted in a career high groundball rate.

Joe Saunders or Paul Maholm. The Mariners already declined Saunders’ option after he pitched to a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts in 2013. Maholm pitched poorly down the stretch after a solid first half, and was left off the Atlanta Braves postseason roster. Neither pitcher is an exciting option. However, both have been able to make at least 26 starts in each of the last six seasons, and their career ERA- is right around the league average.

Relief Pitcher
With Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour still available, the Mariners might be in search of a late-inning arm to take over the closer role. Currently, Danny Farquhar looks like the Opening Day closer, and Tom Wilhelmsen, who faded after a strong start to the season, might be dealt before then. The Steamer Depth chart projects the M’s pen for just 1.9 fWAR, suggesting they are in need of reinforcements.

Oliver Perez struggled in the second half, allowing 15 earned runs in 17 innings. Still, the strikeout stuff was there, as he fanned 28.6 percent of hitters. Overall, he posted a 32.3 percent strikeout rate and a manageable 11.4 percent walk rate. Despite the funky delivery, the lefty has been almost equally effective against righties the past two seasons. He’s too unreliable to be a closer, but retaining him gives the Mariners a big-time swing and miss guy for high-leverage situations.

Chad Gaudin spent time in the bullpen and the starting rotation for the San Francisco Giants. He threw a total of 97 innings, with 3.06 ERA and 3.34 FIP. The 30 year-old had a 21.7 percent strikeout rate and righties hit just .190/.249/.312 against him thanks to a slider that had a 17.5 percent swinging strike rate. Luis Ayala has been strong against righties the past three seasons and he owns a 2.58 ERA in that time span. His peripherals don’t quite line up, but he had a 58.9 percent groundball rate in 2013.

Lottery-ticket style options include Andrew Bailey, who has been beset with injury troubles, but has swing and miss stuff when he’s on the mound. He had a 33.6 percent strikeout rate in 30 games with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. Carlos Marmol is notorious for his poor control, but his fastball velocity hasn’t dropped off, and he still strikes out hitters at a very high rate. Joel Hanrahan is making a return from Tommy John surgeryHe’s worth a flier if he can still pump upper 90′s heat. 

Catcher

The Mariners plan on making Mike Zunino the starting catcher. Still, that leaves at least 35 games for a backup to fill in. Humberto Quintero, who was recently signed to a minor league deal, is a last-resort. At this point, the free agent market is all but dried up, unless you consider Miguel Olivo a viable option. Jose Lobaton is probably the best player available via trade, with the Rays having already signed Jose Molina and dealt for Ryan Hanigan. However, he’ll cost more to acquire, and doesn’t fit in a backup role as nicely as these options.

The New York Yankees will likely shop Austin Romine with the addition of Brian McCann and with Francisco Cervelli likely to hold down the backup role. Romine had a poor year at the plate, with a .207/.255/.296 line in 148 plate appearances. His second half was much better, as he produced a 106 wRC+ with a 10.3 percent walk rate. Small sample size caveats aside, Romine is a solid defender with a nice minor league track record. StatCorner grades him as one of the better pitch-framers in the game.

Chris Iannetta might be available if the Los Angeles Angels want to give Hank Conger more playing time. Unlike Romine, Iannetta has a solid bat. For his career, he has a 103 wRC+. He counteracts a 22.6 percent strikeout rate with a 14.2 percent walk rate and above-average power for a catcher. His defensive skills, especially pitch-framing, are suspect, and he’s more expensive than other options, with a contract that calls for him to make $10 million over the next two seasons.

Erik Kratz has already been moved once this offseason, as the Philadelphia Phillies sent him and Rob Rasmussen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brad Lincoln. The 33 year-old received his most significant playing time in 2013, as he started 68 games. A big man, Kratz has some pop in his bat, and Steamer and Oliver both project a 90 wRC+. In addition, he has a solid arm, and StatCorner grades him as an excellent pitch-framer.

These moves aren’t flashy, and they won’t energize the fan base like a Tanaka signing would. Still, the Mariners badly need depth at these positions, and adding Capuano along with a relief pitcher or two and a backup catcher could go a long way towards remedying this problem.

Written by Chris Moran

Moran Chris 1 232x300 Chris Capuano & other good low profile options

Chris Moran is a second-year law student and assistant baseball coach at Washington University in St .Louis. He graduated from Wheaton College where he wore the tools of ignorance for the baseball team. Follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves

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18 comments on “Chris Capuano & other good low-profile options

  1. mgvernon says:

    The thing with Arroyo is not that he is great, just experienced and would not take as many years of commitment as the other 3 free agent arms, Jimenez, Garza and Santana – and even he is holding out for 3 years.

  2. ripperlv says:

    I don’t know why you are so high on Arroyo, unless you want him at #5, at the end of the rotation. His peripherals are not that good, he’s soon to be 37′ and wants a three year contract. He needs a good defense behind him to be effective. I find it hard to develop much interest unless he is used as depth.

  3. mgvernon says:

    You must not have watched Saunders pitch much last year. He was usable as long as he stayed Safeco Joe but he couldn’t even keep up to that billing. The word brutal come to mind. Dontrelle Willis is off the board, the Giants signed him to a minor league deal.
    Tanaka is back in the Land of the Rising Sun, evidently without seeing Seattle or any really cold places. That may be a hint. GMZ might want to break out some new moves.
    I see there are a couple of new teams in on Arroyo, I hope Seattle is one of them.
    The Rangers lost Holland for the first few months with a knee injury so they may go fishing in the under-stocked free agent pool. That should start emptying soon as the Tanaka wannabees fold their hands and go to market.

  4. Chris Moran says:

    Feldman signed with the Astros a while back. Clayton Richard is coming off shoulder surgery and has been brutal the past few seasons. If they want to go with Beavan/Maurer fine. Saunders is not a joke. He had a rough year, but he was solid in 2012-13 and has a career 103 ERA- and is very durable, so he could be a viable #5

  5. Chris Moran says:

    Buck had 1.4 WAR, but StatCorner had him at 20 runs below average with regards to pitch-framing. Even if you cut that in half, you get 0.4 WAR. He’s basically a replacement level guy that will cost more than that because he’s been around for a while and has hit a few home runs.

  6. mgvernon says:

    I’d go with Buck, a known performer who could help mentor Zunino and a bat with some pop. Framing ability is down the list of necessities, he’s meant to be a backup and relief man. Capuano is in a group of #5 possibilities, they should get one of Tanaka (Which is looking less likely now the Dodgers are in and the Yankees get to keep almost all of A-Rods paycheck next season, unless he gets an unlikely staying order from a judge, plus Tanaka is unsurprisingly reported as favoring NYC, LA or Boston.) Arroyo, Garza, Santana or Jimenez plus a potential #5 just for depth. Here’s a couple of long shots that might not be so long.

    Dontrelle Willis turns 32 Sunday. In prime years. If he’s in good shape and figured out control issues, he could be great story. From: John Shea at the San Francisco Chronicle

    While we know the Twins and Red Sox are two teams in on Korean RHP Suk-Min Yoon, one executive guesses he’s a good fit for the Giants. Peter Gammons at Gammons Daily (Yoon is the best available Korean pitcher since Ryu joined the Dodgers and would be well worth a look by the Mariners,)

    We could use an outfield bat not named Cruz too.

    I think Feldman and Richard are still unsigned as well. Saunders is a joke in Seattle.

  7. Ripperlv says:

    Buck is not a good pitch framer, but that isn’t the whole story. He does everything else pretty well and is known for being a decent catcher and ranks out #12, above Ross and Posey using more standard metrics. He had a 1.4 WAR, above Jaso, Conger, Quintero and a bunch more and just below AJ Pierzynski. I’m just talking back-up catcher here. And he has a little pop, not great offense, but Quintero and Sucre, Cmon Man.

  8. ripperlv says:

    And the season before the ERA- 95 he had an ERA- of 109 to go with last year’s 132. And we know that xFIP and FIP vary a bit every year based on league average. So while Joe posted his career low xFIP in 2013, also only 5 pitchers with at least 160 innings had a worse xFIP, which is real bad. He was good at Safeco to start the year, but then he even melted there. I think the M’s would give Beavan a shot before they gave Saunders another dollar, and I don’t blame them.

  9. Chris Moran says:

    Right, because you should judge a pitcher solely on their last season. Ignore the fact that the two seasons before that he had an ERA- of 95 and that he posted a career low xFIP in 2013 and has beat his xFIP and FIP nearly every season.

  10. bpj says:

    You lost all credibility at Joe Saunders.

  11. ripperlv says:

    Yeah, I was being a bit facetious about Capuano. I agree with you guys that he’s a good pitcher. Just my personal prejudice, which of course means nothing. I’ve been saying from day one that the M’s needed two starting pitchers, but my wish list was a #3 and #4 with Walker/Paxton/Ramirez being #5/depth. I could live with Walker/Paxton/Ramirez being #4/depth and Capuano being #5. That would send a notice, the M’s have a staff and you better be ready to play some ball. My heart burn was if your #3/4 was Saunders and Harang, well, you already know you are in for a long year.

  12. Chris Moran says:

    Upgrading at catcher is still pretty important. Bottom of the list or not, going into the season with Quintero as the backup behind Zunino would be a mistake. I fully support the decision to give Zunino the starting job, but he has enough of a strikeout problem to give him a fairly high bust rate. He had a 28.8 percent K rate in AAA this year, and 25.4 percent after getting called up.

    Quintero has a career 57 wRC+. He has a decent arm, but is a poor receiver. If he’s on the opening day roster, that’s rough. A decent backup that wouldn’t fall on their face if they had to start 40+ games would be nice.

  13. Chris Moran says:

    I had the same thought. While he’s not a great thrower, he has a decent bat, and his framing numbers are excellent. I decided not to include him because he would cost more in a trade, and with the Mariners being committed to Zunino, I don’t think they would want to give away a solid prospect or two for a guy that should be a starting catcher.

  14. Edman says:

    There are too many names in play right now to even speculate. Tanaka has held things up for the quality starting pitchers that remain. It’s not likely that any of them sign, until Tanaka sets the Market. There are a few second-tier pitchers that I like, that might be available. And, in comparison to last year’s performances of Saunders and Harrang, it can only bring improvement.

    As for catcher, it would be nice to upgrade as back-up, but in comparison to other needs, it’s at the bottom of the list.

  15. JerryEK says:

    I’d kinda hoped the M’s could look into Conger. He’d be a great addition, but might cost a lot.

  16. JerryEK says:

    “Capuano gives me the chills, two years of Capuano brings nightmares.”

    Why? He’s a good pitcher, and pitching depth is incredibly important.

    What gives me chills is 15 starts from Beavan/Noesi. That’s what happens if Walker, Paxton, and Ramirez struggle or get injured.

    A guy like Capuano makes a lot of sense, because he can throw a lot of innings and help the M’s hedge their bets with the young guys. I think Paxton and Walker have a lot more upside, and they should be given a shot if they prove their deserve it. Capuano is a good fit for a team like the M’s that figure to be auditioning a lot of young starters. He type of guy who cover innings if things go wrong, but won’t block anyone.

    He’s a much better version of Aaron Harang.

  17. Chris Moran says:

    Buck doesn’t make sense. He is one of the five worst pitch-framing catchers in baseball, and is overrated as a hitter. Dempster could be a decent option, but he would cost $13 million plus a prospect.

    Why does two years of Capuano bring nightmares? He’s been decent for the last three. What is wrong with mentioning Saunders? He had a bad year, but you can’t just take the last season a player had, the year before he was solid.

    Finally, the Mariners need a “stopgap guy” They are very thin behind Felix and Iwakuma. As I said, it’s unlikely that Walker and Paxton throw more than 150 or so innings. Erasmo Ramirez is probably the #3 right now. They need two more pitchers, and it’s hard to see them getting two of the Tanaka, Garza, Jimenez, and Santana. Just because they’re in on big names doesn’t mean they can’t add depth.

    The five man rotation is a myth, most teams will get 25-30 starts from their #6 and #7 guys. The Cardinals gave 19 starts to Jake Westbrook this year, and the Red Sox gave 6 to Alfredo Aceves.

  18. ripperlv says:

    We should sign John Buck right now, he just makes sense. Ryan Dempster might be available for a decent deal. He’s owed 13 million but doesn’t require a 2year commitment. Capuano gives me the chills, two years of Capuano brings nightmares. You should be looked at with great suspicion for even mentioning Saunders. But these are all stop gap guys and I’m not so sure the M’s are ready for that play yet.

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