It’s December 7, and finally, there has been a major free agent signing in baseball. And, what do you know? It’s the Cubs! Today, they signed 27-year-old righty Tyler Chatwood to a three-year deal. [UPDATE: Your much more thorough look at Chatwood as a Cubs’ new starter is right here. The rest of the original post follows.]
We’ll have a lot more on Chatwood in the coming days, but in the interim, you can read our deep dive on him as a target for the Cubs earlier this offseason. The super short version is that there is a lot of risk (hence why he did not receive a qualifying offer (and doesn’t cost the Cubs a draft pick)), but there’s also a whole lot to like.
Although some of the up-front numbers look bad (4.69 ERA, sub-20% K-rate, over 10% walk rate), there’s actually a lot to like here.
For one, he’s an ELITE ground ball pitcher. Indeed, his 58.1 GB% ranked 5th among all pitchers with at least 140 IP this year. On top of that, he earned an above-average soft-hit rate and a below average hard-hit rate (both good things), which makes him a nice bet for the current offensive environment – especially because his HR/FB ratio seems ridiculously out of whack given what we know about his batted ball profile (indeed, it was 10.7 percentage points higher at Coors Field than it was on the road!).
You can’t just ignore the low strikeout rate and high walk rate, but he’s not exactly a top of the rotation candidate, either. And, again, away from Coors his ERA dropped all the way down to 3.49 this season.
Chatwood is getting a whole lot more than the projections, which had him under $30 million:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 7, 2017
Source confirms Cubs agree to deal with Tyler Chatwood. He’ll get three years and $38 million.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 7, 2017
I’ll admit, the projections always seemed light for a 27-year-old starter with so many great signals in his peripherals, even if he’s a two-time Tommy John patient. Still, that’s a very significant investment for the Cubs.
Everyone’s probably wondering what this means for the Cubs’ pursuit of Shohei Ohtani and/or Alex Cobb (or any other starting pitcher), and the answer is: potentially nothing. The Cubs needed two starting pitchers this offseason regardless, and they just got one of the best “upside” ones available. Adding Ohtani or Cobb from here would still make plenty of sense.
Fun fact: at 1.69, Chatwood had *THE* best road ERA in all of baseball in 2016.
Much more coming when we can dive in a little deeper. The early take here in looking at the numbers behind the numbers is that health is far more likely to derail Chatwood than purely poor performance. There are far too many good signals that he can generate a ton of ground balls, and limit hard contact when his home park isn’t Coors Field, to believe he won’t succeed. He’s a great bet to succeed with the Cubs:
Another set of fun facts:
Chatwood's 58.1% groundball rate was 5th best in baseball in 2017.
Extremely relatedly? The Rockies had only the 13th best defensive efficiency against grounders in 2017 (per BP).
The Cubs? They had the best.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 7, 2017
Succeed … if he can stay healthy, that is. In the past, he has not.