The news: Today the Dodgers announced their plans to decline starting pitcher Chris Capuano's contract option for 2014. Capuano would have made $8 million if the option had been exercised, but will receive a $1 million buyout instead.
Capuano, a Brewer from 2004-2010, made 24 appearances and pitched 105.2 innings for the Dodgers this season, plus three more in the playoffs. He had a 4.26 ERA but a 3.55 FIP in 2013, implying luck raised his ERA a bit. He also allowed a .334 batting average on balls in play, further confirming that notion.
The Brewers decided Capuano presented too high of an injury risk to rely upon when they let him leave following the 2010 season. He's had two Tommy John surgeries, and pitchers' history of success following the second surgery is pretty limited. The bad news is that Capuano was on the DL twice in 2013, but the good news is that neither injury was elbow-related.
Aside from brief stints on the DL this season, Capuano has been pretty durable overall. He's made 30 or more starts in each of the last two seasons. 2012 was probably the best year of his career, as he worked 198.1 innings with a 3.72 ERA.
Can he help this team? Almost certainly. The Brewers project to head to spring training with Yovani Gallardo (injured in 2013), Wily Peralta (still only 24), Marco Estrada and Tyler Thornburg (who have never pitched a full season in the majors) in their starting rotation in addition to Kyle Lohse. This is a team that's likely to need additional options as the season goes along, and Capuano could be an opportunity to add a veteran pitcher that can be counted on for 100-120 solid innings.
Capuano's age (he turned 35 in August) and injury history probably make him an unlikely candidate to sign a long-term deal. He's coming off a two-year, $10 million contract with the Dodgers, and I'll be surprised if he gets significantly more than that this winter.
What do I think the Brewers should do? Capuano may be one of the handful of free agents on the market this winter that actually want to come to Milwaukee without having to be overpaid to do so. I'll offer him one year, $6-7 million with a vesting option for 2014. I might be willing to go two years, $10-12 million if I'm convinced he's healthy.