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February 19, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Chris Capuano, Free Agent of Interest

by Daniel Rathman

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Mariners in active discussions with Chris Capuano
With Ubaldo Jimenez off the market on a four-year, $50 million deal with the Orioles, the Mariners are running out of veteran starters with whom to pad their rotation. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote on Tuesday that while the team at least kicked the tires on Jimenez and has been in touch with the still-available Ervin Santana, its top target at the moment might be Chris Capuano.

As Heyman pointed out, general manager Jack Zduriencik is familiar with Capuano, having overseen the Brewers farm system and later served as assistant general manager when Milwaukee acquired Capuano from the Diamondbacks and navigated his injury-laden path to big-league success. You’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher with a more troubling medical past than Capuano, who has two Tommy John surgeries and a labrum procedure on his chart. But the southpaw’s throwing arm has been relatively healthy in recent years, with the only blemish being a lat strain that cost him three weeks last season.

Now 35 years old, Capuano is likely to move on to his fifth professional organization after Paul Maholm supplanted him in Los Angeles earlier this winter. He turned in 105 2/3 innings and walked only 5.3 percent of the batters he faced in 2013, good for a 3.52 FIP that suggests he was better than his 4.26 ERA. Teams looking for a back-end starter could do much worse than Capuano, especially if they have the depth to withstand two or three weeks without him.

The Mariners might prefer a pitcher with a cleaner bill of health, but Heyman believes that they could settle for Capuano to keep funds available for a hitter. In particular, both Heyman and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe have suggested over the past few days that Seattle could bring back Kendrys Morales. The switch-hitter declined a qualifying offer from the Mariners in November, only to watch his market erode because of the draft-pick cost associated with signing him.

Whether it’s Capuano, Santana, or a thus-far-unknown target, the Mariners are a good bet to secure a starting pitcher before they head north from spring training. Hisashi Iwakuma’s strained hand exacerbated an existing need in the rotation, and while the Mariners have several upper-minors prospects who could step in, all of them might benefit from additional seasoning. Non-roster invitees Scott Baker and Randy Wolf were low-risk pickups, but both underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and neither can be counted on for a 30-plus-start season.

Red Sox also in talks with Capuano
But the Mariners aren’t alone in their pursuit of Capuano—FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal heard from a source that the Red Sox are chasing him, too. The Red Sox recently lost Ryan Dempster to the restricted list when the right-hander decided to sit out the 2014 season for family and physical reasons. Boston might have the minor-league depth to withstand Dempster’s absence, but as the adage goes, you can never have too much pitching.

The Red Sox also have some disposable funds on their hands, because Dempster’s decision shaved his $13.25 million salary for 2014 off their payroll. If Capuano prefers to pitch in his native state of Massachusetts, general manager Ben Cherington should be able to afford him.

Four teams courting Stephen Drew
Stephen Drew might cost his next employer a high draft pick, but according to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, that’s not stopping four teams from attempting to sign him.

Bowden tweeted yesterday afternoon that the Red Sox—whose qualifying offer Drew declined—and Mets are two of the clubs currently in the running, but he was unable to identify the other two. He also added this intriguing nugget: One owner is negotiating directly with agent Scott Boras, though we don’t know if that’s against the general manager’s will or just part of a more concerted effort to attract Drew to his team.

One other club for which Drew might make sense is the Yankees, who could give the chance to take over at shortstop when Derek Jeter retires at the end of the year, and who reportedly offered Drew a deal earlier in the offseason. He could also fit with the Twins, who recently lost Pedro Florimon to an appendectomy and would see a substantial offensive upgrade at the position if they added Drew.

Drew, who turns 31 on March 16, is said to be looking for a multi-year contract—and Boras might demand an opt-out clause at the end of year one, per a report from ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin.

Athletics plan to use Drew Pomeranz as a starter
When the A’s traded Brett Anderson to the Rockies for former Indians top prospect Drew Pomeranz and minor-league right-hander Chris Jensen, some thought that Oakland would employ him as a reliever. That plan would have given Pomeranz a better chance to find a spot on the Opening Day roster, especially after general manager Billy Beane shipped lefty bullpen arm Jerry Blevins to the Nationals.

But manager Bob Melvin has other ideas. On Tuesday, he told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jane Lee, that the 25-year-old will spend the spring preparing to start, most likely in the rotation at Triple-A Sacramento. The A’s rotation already features Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and newcomer Scott Kazmir, so unless one of them comes down with an injury, there won’t be room for Pomeranz at the beginning of the regular season.

Pomeranz is optimistic about the change of scenery and believes that he has a better handle on his mechanics than he has in recent years. He got an early start, according to Lee, throwing several bullpen sessions before Athletics pitchers and catchers were required to report to camp. Pomeranz’ sixth-starter rivals are fellow lefty Tommy Milone and right-hander Josh Lindblom, who came over from the Rangers along with Craig Gentry when the A’s shipped top outfield prospect Michael Choice to Texas.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

Related Content:  Stephen Drew,  Chris Capuano,  Drew Pomeranz

1 comment has been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Kris Ericson

Isn't Boras asking for an opt-out after one year for Drew going to make signing him harder? What team, especially with a draft pick to give up, would sign Drew, possibly lose the pick, and then lose the player after a year? Unless he's going to sign for some crazy discount (like $2M instead of $10M), it seems very...odd.

Feb 19, 2014 12:12 PM
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