Position: Relief Pitcher
2018 Stats: 1.15 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 2.95 DRA, 0.79 WHIP, .172 TAv, 0.9 WARP
Year in Review: When the Cubs acquired Jesse Chavez, I was excited. Initially, probably more excited than I should have been. For whatever reason, I’ve followed his career. But I have a thing for versatile players (I’ve always been a tremendous Brock Holt fan, sue me). And, apparently, that applies to pitchers. The thought of the Cubs bringing in a guy who has experience both in the rotation and in the bullpen, with many of the issues they had with health and consistency last year, just seemed like a perfect match. That absolutely ended up being the case with Chavez.
For a bullpen that featured elements that seemed to walk the ballpark each time out, Chavez represented a breath of fresh air. Walks were at a premium with him on the bump. He walked a minuscule 1.2 hitters per nine, coming off of a 1.9 figure prior to that with the Texas Rangers. Throwing nearly 70 percent of your pitches for strikes will do that. He sat largely in the lower-90s, topping out around 93-94, with a primarily sinker-combination. That’s a lot of movement for a lot of strikes. His arsenal itself was appealing, but seeing it in action made Chavez one of the most (if not the most) valuable Cub relievers down the stretch. He got his first taste of postseason action in his entire career, tossing a scoreless frame in the Cubs’ wild-card loss. Seen as a minor acquisition at the time, Chavez was an essential piece of a relief group that didn’t feature a ton of reliable options. The question is, will we see him suit back up with the Cubs in 2019?
Looking Ahead: Chavez is a free agent, but it would obviously behoove the Cubs t0 look to re-up him heading into the new season. Sure, of the intriguing arms available on the market, he’s on the older side. He’ll turn 36 at the tail end of next season. But it’s really hard to overstate the necessity a guy like Chavez provides for this bullpen. A relief corps that struggled to keep the walks down (the Cubs’ 273 free passes were tied for the third-most in baseball among relievers), Chavez represents a relief pitcher with remarkable consistency. He’s not necessarily overpowering. He’s not going to mow hitters down with the strikeout pitch. But his ability to limit walks, thanks largely to that first-pitch-strike figure mentioned above, is a tremendous asset. The fact that he was a starter in the past means that the Cubs would have the ability to lean on him for multiple innings, as we saw last season.
There was a quote earlier in the offseason in which Chavez said that if he wasn’t wearing the Cubs logo on his chest in 2019, then he was hanging up his spikes. He’s obviously in favor of a return to the North Side. Same. A versatile reliever, who shoves strikes, and doesn’t walk guys at a frustrating rate? Sign me up for that 10 times out of 10. Even if there’s a small regression, as he is prone to surrendering some hard contact, Theo & Co. ultimately want pitchers that can throw strikes, above all. Jesse Chavez does that.
Lead photo courtesy ESPN