By Tommy Rancel //
Two-time Tommy John surgery survivor and former 18-game winner Chris Capuano will try another comeback, after signing a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the New York Mets.
Capuano broke off talks with his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers, due to uncertainty over his future role. The Brewers did not want to commit a rotation spot, while Capuano is not yet ready to make a permanent move to the bullpen. The Mets have a few openings at the back end of their rotation and little financial flexibility with a top-heavy payroll. On paper, the pairing seems like a good marriage of ability and need.
Because of injury, Capuano did not pitch in the major leagues in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the lefty returned to make 24 appearances (9 starts) for the Brewers. In most cases, results immediately following major arm surgery should be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, in 66 innings of work Capuano appeared to be very much the same pitcher he was pre-operation.
Looking at his 2010 peripheral stats most notably: strikeouts, walks, and home runs per nine innings (K/9, BB/9, HR/9), he was right in line with his career numbers.
Also returning to career form was Capuano’s pitch selection and velocity. He remains a three-pitch starter, featuring a fastball, slider, and change-up. He was not a hard-thrower before the injuries, and his fastball remained in the upper-80s upon his return.
The Mets are taking a small risk on Capuano, who will earn a base salary of $1.5 million, but when healthy he is a league-average pitcher who could benefit from pitching his home games in the Mets’ spacious stadium. No stranger to the big fly (career 1.27 HR/9), a healthy Capuano could see his home run rate drop significantly in New York. After pitching most of his career in a noted launching pad (Miller Park), he moves to Citi Field, which ranked 27th in home runs per game in 2010 according to ESPN’s park factors.
Obviously, the concerns over another arm injury are real. And even if he remains healthy, there are questions about stamina (Capuano threw 100 or more pitches just once in 2010) over the course of an entire season. Meanwhile, there is the chance Capuano gives the Mets 150-plus innings of league average work or better thanks to the new digs.
It is a risk the Mets are willing to take and one you should consider at the back end of your NL-only draft. In standard mixed leagues, you can probably pass.