[lead image credit: Barry Gutierrez, The Associated Press]
The Braves made a minor signing today, inking Right Handed Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin to a minor league deal. The 27 year old hurler elected to take free agency after being outrighted off of the 40 man roster by the Diamondbacks, and found a taker in the Braves. He will be invited to Spring Training and will compete for a spot in the starting rotation.
This is a predictable move for the Braves, who were staring at a large hole in their starting rotation that was already carrying a lot of youth and uncertainty with the likes of Matt Wisler, Manny Banuelos, Mike Folynewicz and Williams Perez figuring to be in the mix for starting jobs. The club was rumored to be interested in adding some veteran presence on a short term contract with low risk, and Chacin fits the bill to a tee.
Chacin made his professional debut with the Rockies in 2007, and broke in with the big league club in 2009. He was back and forth between AAA and the majors between then and 2013, when he produced the best year of his career. He posted a 3.47 ERA that year in about 200 innings, which was identical to his 3.47 FIP. A quick glance suggests he was fortunate in terms of BABIP that year (.288), but that is actually 7 tics worse than his career average (.281). Chacin seems to have some real soft contact and home run skills when healthy, given his BABIP numbers and that as his career FIP is slightly better than his xFIP (which adjusts home run rate to the league average) despite pitching in home run crazy Colorado.
But his health has been his achilles heel, though no achilles injuries have factored in beyond this turn of phrase. Chacin had his 2014 cut short by a shoulder injury, which included a rotator cuff strain and frayed cartilage.He had spent the first month of the season on the DL after dealing with shoulder soreness in spring training that year. This presumably explains his poor numbers in 2014 after his very strong year in 2013, though a return to problems with walks that year also tell at least part of the story. Chacin sports a career walk per 9 innings rate of 3.74, which is good for a walk more than the typical league average for a starter.
Chacin was released from the Rockies and briefly spent time in the Indians farm system before landing in Arizona, where he logged 26 big league innings nearing the end of the season. This brings us to the present, as Chacin was deemed expendable after the D’Backs’ additions of both Shelby Miller and Zach Grienke. Chacin chose free agency instead of accepting an assignment to the minors, which made him available for the Braves scoop-and-maybe-score. This move could prove mutually beneficial, as Chacin will compete a rotation spot on a team that does not have high aspirations in 2016. With some patience, Chacin could find an opportunity to grow back into the form he flashed in 2013. From the Braves perspective, if he can even post league average and stay healthy enough to pitch a season’s worth of innings, his purpose will have been served in full. Atlanta is looking for a way to stabalize their rotation as they wait for what amounts to an army of young, talented arms to arrive from their minor leagues.
I concur, Señor Coleman, of fabled Braves blog Talking Chop.
All in all, I think that this is a savvy move by Atlanta. There is really nothing to lose here, and even a mediocre Chacin is useful to the Braves current state of affairs. If nothing else, he could help ensure that the organization isn’t tempted to bring up any of our Prospect Parade© too soon. Maybe the most ideal outcome is Chacin pitches very well, and the Braves can sell high to a competing club at the deadline as the likes of Tyrell Jenkins, Aaron Blair and Sean Newcomb start to knock on the rotation’s door. It’s not unreasonable to think that a controlled reliever could come back in that deal. Optimism! Keep an eye out for a move to the bullpen if other younger pitchers are having success early on, as Chacin may have the most value there if he falls too far down the depth chart.Follow @ptapbravos