In a season marred by bullpen injuries, the Chicago Cubs found a diamond in the rough in Jesse Chavez. Now, heading into the offseason, the club should make sure he returns to the North Side in 2019.
As the season went on, it felt as though the bullpen was on pins and needles. Dealing with various injuries, including one of the season-ending variety to high-profile acquisition Brandon Morrow, the Cubs need for an extra arm was strong. Enter Jesse Chavez.
Acquired from the Texas Rangers, the 35-year-old right-hander immediately brought a jolt to the pen, as he was lights-out from the minute he stepped onto the mound in a Cubs uniform. Now Chavez, who was on a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, is a free agent once again with the hopes of returning to Chicago. Despite heading into his late-30s, his complete dominance in his short time in the blue and red warrants a serious look for next season.
More from Cubbies Crib
- After the Cubs traded him, Mychal Givens has been a hot mess for the Mets
- Cubs might have uncovered a diamond in the rough in Franmil Reyes
- Nelson Velazquez has a long-term role to play for the Cubs
- Do the Cubs really need to go spend on a superstar shortstop?
- Gazing into our crystal ball to see the staff of the 2026 Cubs
A true rejuvenation
Over the previous five seasons, Jesse Chavez has made his fair share of appearances as a starting pitcher. In three of those five seasons, Chavez started at least twenty games. The other two seasons saw the right-hander appear in at least sixty games with relatively below average production.
After a rough 2017 season, Chavez rebounded nicely for Texas pitching to the tun of a 3.51 ERA with a strikeout percentage of 21.4 and a 5.1 percent walk rate. Considering Globe Life Park is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of Major League Baseball, all things considered, it was respectable.
Moving forward to his arrival with the Cubs, Chavez turned the high beams on and never let off the gas. In 39 innings, Chavez finished with a 1.15 ERA, while increasing his strikeout percentage to 29.4 percent and lowering his walk rate to 3.5 percent. Chavez also saw a significant drop in both his wOBA from .318 in Texas to just .211 in Chicago.
Most notably may be the difference in his FIP and xFIP. In Texas, Chavez posted a below-average 4.33 FIP and an average 3.78 xFIP. Once he arrived in Chicago, Chavez saw those numbers go way down to an above-excellent 2.39 FIP and a 2.87 xFIP.
There’s no place like home
While Chavez did not find himself part of the team for very long, he morphed into a fan favorite for the Wrigley faithful. His dominance helped keep the nerves at bay, and it became something for fans when Chavez came into a game, you just knew he would be lights out.
Following the heartbreaking extra-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card game, Chavez came forward with a blunt message for Cubs fans in Chicago and around the country, saying if he doesn’t return to the North Side, he’ll hang up his spikes for good.
Strong words for a reliever on the final leg of his career. It, however, does express his intense desire to play for manager Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs. That stated passion should not be overlooked when the team decides on whether to bring him back into the fold in 2019.
Facing the offseason
Understanding where Chavez fits into the Cubs offseason plans is essential. As the team dealt with some significant injuries over the course of the year, including that of a season-ending injury to closer Brandon Morrow, Chavez was the perfect option at the ideal time.
Now with the likes of Morrow returning, as well as Pedro Strop, who missed the final weeks of the regular season, it will be interesting to see what moves take place. If the Cubs can retain Chavez on a new deal, at a relatively low cost, he can produce as a low-risk, high-reward option, giving the further bullpen depth next season.