With Ryan Dempster effectively retired and not pitching for the Red Sox in 2014, Boston is down a pitcher. They are't missing a starter, since Dempster wasn't slated for that role barring a spring injury to one of their five regulars, but they are now without a long man or swingman, roles Dempster was expected to fill during the second season of his two-year pact. The Sox are reportedly in discussions with another for this gig, with FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeting that Boston is talking to free agent pitcher Chris Capuano.
We saw this coming earlier in the week, listing Capuano first among potential options to replace Dempster's depth in the organization. The issue that cropped up then with regards to convincing Capuano to sign was the available job: Unless he was desperate to get into camp and on a contract, it was likely going to be difficult to sign him to a minor-league deal. The Red Sox, though, per Rosenthal, are looking for a swingman who could give them some relief innings and spot start when needed, most likely early on when their array of upper-minors pitching prospects are still working through their development and would benefit from a lack of interruption. Capuano could very well be that swing arm, if for no other reason than it's getting into the last bit of February and he's still unemployed, limiting his non-minor-league options.
If Capuano wants a guarantee to start, he won't be signing with Boston, given they already have Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront in the rotation. He might have a better shot with the Mariners, who are also talking to Capuano, if for no other reason than they are relying on the injury-prone Scott Baker and the as-of-yet ineffective Erasmo Ramirez in their rotation. The White Sox and Marlins have also been in discussions with Capuano this off-season, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo, but both of those clubs might be in a position where handing starts to Capuano over their kids makes little sense. That doesn't mean they won't bring Capuano on board and give him an initial chance to start that the Red Sox won't, however.
Capuano does not have much relief work to look back on, but he's had success in the 47 innings he's tossed out of the pen, posting a 3.47 ERA in 29 career games. While he's not the greatest starter out there, he has been fairly average overall for his career, with a 97 ERA+ over 1,267 frames and nine years of work. Since returning to the majors in 2010 following arm trouble, Capuano owns a 91 ERA+, with alternating above-average and well-below campaigns. He could very well end up being a nothing piece for the Red Sox, but there is at least the possibility of usefulness as depth that helps keep the likes of Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, and Matt Barnes in the minors an extra month or two instead of being rushed up as an injury replacement early in the year, should that be necessary -- much like Dempster would have done had he stuck around.
The one major concern is Fenway Park, as the southpaw Capuano is susceptible to right-handers, and Fenway is notoriously righty-friendly. We're talking about an emergency depth piece and an arm who will throw low-leverage relief innings, though: they don't need to be perfect to serve their purpose. If the Sox never end up needing Capuano to start, he can at least fill the long man role, and even do it as a lefty, a la Franklin Morales, and he could end up looking better in relief than some of the project lefties Boston has brought on board for 2014 as well. If the price is right and he's willing to live in the pen until needed -- if ever -- in the rotation, signing Capuano makes a lot of sense for the Sox.