At the precise moment the Cubs were defeating the Cardinals tonight – within seconds, really – Ken Rosenthal dropped some news, later confirmed by the Cubs:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 20, 2018
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 20, 2018
Chavez, 34, has long been a swing man in the big leagues, more reliever than starter, but always with the ability to do both. On that virtue, alone, it’s nice to have him in the fold as a depth piece.
After a couple very nice years as a starter for the A’s in 2014 and 2015, Chavez was exclusively a reliever in 2016, and he was “fine” (4.43 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 22.3% K rate, 6.4% BB rate). He then split time as a starter and reliever in 2017 with terrible results, and has been back to just relieving this year with good results with solid peripherals. The rub for him over the whole time period, though, is that he’s given up a TON of homers (at least 1.60 per 9 each of the last three years). So … watch out for that, I suppose.
The Cubs may also see something about Chavez they feel they could tweak to bring out a little bit more within their pitching infrastructure. Always a consideration when you see the Cubs target a player who has had past success, but middling results in the last few years.
Chavez is making $1 million this season, so the Cubs will be adding about half of that to their books for the season. They have about $10 million in wiggle room below the luxury tax this year, so there’s still plenty of space available even under that threshold to make other additions.
We’ll have more on Chavez soon.
As for what the Cubs give up, it’s 22-year-old lefty Tyler Thomas, the Cubs’ 7th round pick last year. He’s been putting up excellent numbers at Low-A this year (2.88 ERA, 3.00 FIP), though you do have to keep in mind that the Midwest League is pitcher friendly, and he’s a former college pitcher in A-ball. So, yes, he was a guy who was putting himself on the radar, but he isn’t necessarily a guy you’d hold back to add a little quality depth.
To that end, I wouldn’t say this is “the” Cubs move this trade season. Given the Brandon Morrow injury and the long stretch of games to come, I’d say this was at least as much about just getting a quality arm in the door sooner rather than later so that (1) you don’t grind down the bullpen too much in the next two weeks (especially with a doubleheader this weekend), and (2) to preserve yourself some leverage in later trade talks this month.
The Cubs have been very open about their desire to add depth to their bullpen and rotation this trade season, while leaving open the possibility of an impact move, too. They now have a little bit of cover to take their time, and be patient waiting for the right deal, should it come along.
In other words, and to sum up, this trade is a solid depth and “just in case” move. It ain’t sexy, but it’s fine.