He’s the standard tweet, comment or email that consistently makes me roll my eyes: The Yankees make a relatively minor signing — a bench player or other depth move — and the reaction is something sarcastic about the Yankees really being contenders now. The implication is that any move that doesn’t involve a superstar or a massive difference maker, isn’t worth making at all, as if the choice were between signing Chris Young or Mike Trout, and the Yankees somehow preferred Young.
Some players are simply expected to play a role, not alter the franchise. Chris Capuano is one of those guys.
When I asked this morning whether the Yankees needed to acquire more pitching depth — clearly any additional depth couldn’t hurt — one of the responses I got was: Just someone better than Capuano for the (No.) 5.
In my mind, Capuano might not be the least of the Yankees problems, but he’s certainly near the bottom. He was actually pretty good last season, giving the Yankees 12 starts with a 4.25 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 3.85 FIP. Could he repeat those numbers this season? Sure he could. In fact, those numbers are almost perfectly in line with his career performance (his strikeout rate, walk rate and home run rate were also basically the same as his career numbers).
Capuano’s not elite, but the Yankees aren’t treating him as if he’s elite. In an ideal world, he’s a two-month placeholder for Ivan Nova. In a less-than-ideal world, he’s cheap rotation depth should someone else get hurt. He’s potentially helpful, ultimately disposable, and any significant upgrade would likely cost a lot more money or a significant prospect. Is that really a worthwhile commitment to possibly upgrade the No. 5 starter?
To me, Capuano falls in line with the other short-term investments meant to fill a hole, not necessarily tip the scales. A one-year deal with Stephen Drew adds short-term infield depth and doesn’t have to block any sort of long-term solution. Brendan Ryan is shortstop insurance, giving the Yankees at guy who has at least proven himself to be a good defender as a position where defense is crucial. Chris Martin is a hard-throwing reliever who might provide some cheap bullpen depth, and there’s little indication that the Yankees are counting on him for key outs.
Capuano’s an experienced bit of rotation depth. That’s it. If he gives the Yankees 12 starts like the ones he provided last season, he will have done his job. Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s shoulder, CC Sabathia’s effectiveness, Nathan Eovaldi’s transition and Nova’s recovery should be far greater concerns in the rotation. The fact Capuano is getting $5 million to plug that hole in the fifth spot might not be flashy or ideal, but it’s hardly the worst thing about this roster.
Associated Press photo