2015 Statistics: 22 G, 4 GS, 40.2 IP, 7.97 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 1.820 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 4.9 BB/9
2015 Contract Status: Free Agent
When the Yankees brought Chris Capuano back last winter, I was a bit wary. As it turns out, those feelings were correct. The 37-year old lefty simply wasn't very good, and his time in the Bronx has most likely come to an end.
Once upon a time, however, Capuano was pretty good, and he was selected in the eighth round of the 1999 draft out of Duke University by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made his big league debut for the D-Backs as a 24-year old in 2003, but was traded that to the Brewers that offseason with Craig Counsell, Jorge De La Rosa, Junior Spivey and our old friends Lyle Overbay and Chad Moeller. In exchange, Milwaukee received Noochie Varner, Shane Nance and another old friend, Richie Sexson. Capuano turned himself into a pretty good arm for the Brewers, making the All-Star team in 2006. Unfortunately, he hurt his arm in 2007, had his second Tommy John surgery (the first was in 2002) and didn't return until the 2010 season.
Since coming back from the second surgery, he's been the epitome of a journeyman, spending a season with the Mets and two with the Dodgers, before signing with the Red Sox just prior to the 2014 season. He appeared in 28 games for the Sox, all in relief, but was released on July 1. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies, and the Yankees purchased him from Colorado on July 24. He immediately joined the rotation and was serviceable the rest of the way, making 12 starts and putting up a 4.25 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 65.2 innings. After the season, the Yankees signed him to a guaranteed major league one-year deal worth $5 million, with the hope that he could potentially tighten up the back of the rotation, or at worst, help in long relief. He did neither.
Things started out ominously for Chris in spring training, as a strained quad early on kept him on the disabled list until May 17th. With Ivan Nova still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Masahiro Tanaka out with a strained elbow and Chase Whitley set for Tommy John surgery of his own, Capuano jumped back into the rotation. He made three starts, lost all three (with a 6.39 ERA), and was moved to the bullpen when Tanaka came back on June 3rd. He didn't fare much better there, and was designated for assignment for the first time on July 29th, a day after allowing five runs in 0.2 innings to the Rangers in a spot start (a game the Yankees won 21-5). Designated for the first time, you ask? Yes. The qualification was added because the Yankees designated him for assignment three more times: on August 15, August 22 and August 26. Each time, Capuano went unclaimed and accepted being sent down to Scranton, or ended up coming back because of one injury or another to the major league roster.
He was called up for the last time on September 7th and spent the rest of the year working out of the bullpen, mostly as a mop-up guy when the Yankees were down by a lot of runs. His numbers were not pretty. In 22 games and four starts overall, Capuano went 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA (5.03 FIP), a ludicrous 1.820 WHIP and six home runs allowed in just 40.2 innings. He also walked almost five batters per nine innings, which is well above his career average of 2.9. If you want to look for a silver lining, he did strike out almost one batter per inning. At the end of the day, however, the Yankees needed Capuano to provide innings and give the team a chance to win games from the bullpen or the rotation, and he was unable to do so in 2015. He didn't really even come close.
It would be a surprise if the Yankees brought Capuano back next season. He just turned 37 in August (we actually share a birthday, which is fun), and it's clear that whatever is left of his ability to get major league hitters out is, at best, on the way out. Furthermore, the Yankees showed that they have more than enough arms ready to go in the minor leagues. Those guys are younger, cheaper, have plenty of minor league options and can fill Capuano's role with ease. Do I think Capuano is done for good? It's possible, but as Andrew pointed out in Capuano's Roster Report Card after last season, if you're left handed and have a good fastball, you will live forever in this game.
I think someone will sign him to a minor league deal sometime late this winter, or early in spring training, and we'll see him in the bigs at some point or another in 2016. I just hope it's not on the Yankees, and I say that with all due respect.