According to Buster Olney, who appeared on The Michael Kay Show this afternoon, the New York Mets are reportedly looking to add to the back-end of their bullpen before the start of the regular season. And among their targets are former Cub reliever Andrew Chafin and current Brewers reliever Josh Hader. Now that’s something!
Chafin, of course, became a fan-favorite after a half-season in Chicago, where his curly hair, luscious mustache, failed starter Obvious Shirt, and 2.06 ERA (2.69 FIP) played well to the masses. And he was actually even better in his second half of the season with the A’s, after being traded: 1.53 ERA over 29.1 IP. Now, he hits the market as one of the best on-paper relievers available in free agency, with one of the most aggressive teams chasing him. And I’ve got to say … I’m a little jealous.
Even before Codi Heuer underwent Tommy John surgery (for which he’ll miss the entire season), the Cubs needed some established help at the back end of their bullpen, and Chafin certainly fit the bill. After all, this Cubs front office has already – in effect – acquired him twice (at the end of the 2020 season and then as a free agent last winter). And he has been vocal about how much he loved his time in Chicago. Unfortunately, with the Cubs (absent any shocking moves), Chafin may be in store for something similar to last season – do as well as you can in the first half, and plan to be traded in July. But in New York, he can more certainly expect to compete for the World Series. That’s also probably why they (and other more certain contenders) would/should be willing to pay a bit more for Chafin than the Cubs.
But that’s only one-half of the story.
The Mets are reportedly also interested in Josh Hader, who’s been bandied about the Brewers rumor mill for multiple offseasons now, but never traded. Hader is under control for two more years via arbitration, and the Brewers are probably eager to move his increasing salary while they can still net a massive haul. And now might be the best possible time. Not only does Hader have two more years of control, he is also coming off his best overall season: 1.23 ERA (2.18 FIP), 2.6 WAR over 58.2 innings. It would cost a LOT to get him off the Brewers, even if they are legitimately interested in trading him.
So even if you’re dreaming about a scenario where the Mets go after Hader, removing a thorn from the Cubs side and paving the way for Chafin to return to Chicago (not a bad outcome, all things considered), don’t forget that Hader’s return would likely make the Brewers much better off in the long run. Heck, they might even be better off in the short term, if they’re able to put his projected $10M 2022 salary to better use, like the offense.
In any case, I still do expect the Cubs to add at least one established arm to their bullpen, and until Chafin signs on the dotted line somewhere else, he remains a (remote) possibility.