The Baltimore Orioles will look to add bargain pitching options this offseason. Should Jhoulys Chacin be on the radar?
We’re back with another look at a low-cost free agent pitching option the Baltimore Orioles may take a look at this offseason. With all of these pieces, there have yet to be any substantiated rumors connecting the Baltimore Orioles to these players, we’re only profiling these free agents and discussing whether not the Orioles should take a look.
The response to our first profile, former Los Angeles Angels starter Trevor Cahill, was overwhelmingly in favor of passing and looking elsewhere. However, our second look was at former San Diego Padres starter/long-reliever Robbie Erlin. Erlin received a large amount of positive feedback, most notably for his ability to keep the ball in the yard.
Here’s another guy to consider, RHP Jhoulys Chacin. The right-hander will be 32 years old when Opening Day rolls around and is coming off the worst season of his career, but he has a recent history of success at the major league level and perfectly fits the low-cost, flip at the deadline if he bounces back profile the Baltimore Orioles are interested in.
Chacin spent the first six seasons of his career with the Colorado Rockies, going 38-48 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Across 672 innings, he owned an impressive 0.8 HR/9 IP rate, tied for the lowest number of home runs allowed per game at any of his seven stops in the big leagues.
After brief stints with the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Los Angeles Angels, Chacin found his groove again with back-to-back impressive seasons in 2017 with the San Diego Padres and 2018 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
As a Padre, Chacin went 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA, limiting opponents to just 7.8 H/9 IP (157 hits allowed in 180 IP). His 1.27 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 IP were some of the best marks of his career in each particular category. Chacin’s success didn’t go unnoticed, even while pitching for a 96-loss team in San Diego. The Milwaukee Brewers came calling with a two-year/$15.5 million dollar contract deal that winter.
Everything went largely as planned in 2018, the first year of his new contract. Chacin won 15 games, led the National League in 35 starts, and worked a 3.50 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 0.8 HR/9 IP rate. He picked up the win as he logged five shutout innings against his old team, the Colorado Rockies, in the 2018 NLDS before making two starts against the Dodgers in the NLCS, going 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and six strikeouts in 7.1 total innings.
Unfortunately, things fell apart for Chacin in 2019. Per Baseball Reference, Chacin was worth 14.6 Wins Above Replacement during his tenure in Colorado, 2.7 in his season in San Diego, and 2.0 in his first year with the Brewers. He was worth a combined -0.8 bWAR in 2019.
After going 3-10 with a 5.79 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and uncharacteristic 1.9 HR/9 IP across 19 starts, Chacin was designated for assignment and released in late-August. Less than a week later, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox in an attempt by Boston to bolster their pitching staff and make a run at the playoffs. The attempt failed miserably.
Chacin made five starts (six total appearances), giving up 12 earned runs on 16 hits (6 HR) across 14.2 innings (7.36 ERA). He piled up the strikeouts at a career-high rate, sitting down 21 via the strikeout, but it proved to be all for naught.
Lingering oblique and lower back issues may have played a big role in his 2019 downfall. Will a healthy Chacin rebound in 2020?
Chacin has flirted with 200 IP multiple times in his career, as recently as 2018 when he logged 192 innings, spent much of his career producing a high number of groundballs, and other than his 2019 meltdown, he has been effective at limiting home runs. If Orioles coaching believes they can help him turn things around and prepare for a rebound season, he’s worth a look.
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Largely a four-pitch pitcher, Chacin relies heavily on his slider (used 49.5% of the time), which is a solid pitch. Opponents have hit .158 and .210 against the pitch in each of the last two seasons. According to Baseball Savant, his sinker is his second-most used pitch (31%), but it’s been ineffective over the years. Opponents hit .371 with 10 home runs against Chacin’s sinker last year.
If his four-seamer can produce results more closely aligned with his 2018 numbers (instead of his .410 average against in ’19) and Chacin can continue to mix in his changeup effectively (usage up from 2.1% to 5.6% last season and producing a .181 average against and 27% whiff rate), there’s potential to unlock the 2+ WAR player of previous seasons.
I don’t know much about Chris Holt, the new Orioles Director of Pitching, but it’s easy to see the improvements from the prospects and players he has directly worked with. Maybe he can be the key to unlocking the potential in some of these low-cost options likely to find their way to Baltimore.
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