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What is Chris Capuano Worth?

Yesterday, we (well, mostly I) looked at what might have changed for Chris Capuano since the All-Star Break.  Assuming that he gets back on track and posts something like last year's 3.99 ERA, he'll be one of the more expensive first-year-of-arbitration signings this offseason.

That is, if Melvin & Co. don't try to do something else.  There have been a flurry of long-term deals awarded to young, pre-arbitration players in the last few days: $23.25 million to Jose Reyes, $55 million to David Wright, and most pertinently, $14 million to Cliff Lee.  Lee, a lefty starter with the Indians, isn't nearly the pitcher Capuano has been this year, but he might be the best comp we have.

Lee and Capuano were born 11 days apart in 1978, and each pitched in nine games in 2003.  (Lee got into a couple the year before, as well.)  Lee was a regular starter in 2004, while Capuano was hurt, throwing about 90 more innings than Cappy did that year.  Then, last year, each of them won 18 games.

This year, Capuano's ERA is almost a full run better than Lee's, but that doesn't take context into account: Lee is pitching regularly against the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox, while Capuano gets a steady diet of the NL Central.  Overall, they're pretty darn close.

Assuming for a moment that Capuano and his agent would be amenable to such a deal, let's see what it might take:

Lee's deal, which took form during the All-Star break last month, includes a $1 million signing bonus and increases his salary this year from $406,200 to $750,000. He gets $2.75 million next year, $3.75 million in 2008 and $5.75 million in 2009. Cleveland has an $8 million option for 2010.

The benefits of deals like this can be enormous to both sides: the player gets security for life, and  the team gets cost-certainty, as well as some (maybe even a lot of) savings if the player lives up to their potential.  In each of the deals Cleveland has put together over the last year (including contracts for Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta), there's always a team option year at the end--and I would hope Doug Melvin would include one of those on Capuano's contract, as well.

What do you think?  Do you want to see Capuano pitching for the Crew through the end of the decade?  Is $14 million too much for three years?  Do you think it'd take more to sign him?

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