Andrew Chafin spent the last month of 2020 with the Chicago Cubs after coming over via trade from the Diamondbacks – and now the North Siders will see what he can do over a full season in 2021.
This week, Chafin and Chicago agreed on a one-year contract worth $2.25M with a mutual option for 2022. Incentives can push the contract up to $2.75M.
Chafin adds to the stable of potential bullpen signings like Robert Stock, Jonathan Holder, Joe Biagini and Kohl Stewart. The only one familiar to the Cubs is Chafin, who appeared in four games last season with the team, posting a 3.00 ERA, giving up just one run in three innings.
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A very small sample size, but Chafin has seen sustained success over the course of his entire career. In 341 games, he has a 3.67 ERA, most of that coming with Arizona. One thing Cubs fans should enjoy is his 291 strikeouts over 274 2/3 career innings. The Cubs have a pitcher that can miss bats, and that’s always a desirable quality.
Chicago should still be looking at another bullpen arm and maybe another starting pitcher. Chafin is by far the most expensive addition to the bullpen, with every other signing set to make less than $1M.
If the Cubs add more to the team, then you can live with Chafin, but if this is it for them, $2.75M for a reliever is just not a good allocation of resources when a spot in the rotation is available and second base looks very shaky.
Chafin does have a bit of a walk issue, allowing almost four free passes per nine innings, but he gives up fewer than one home run per nine. In today’s game, keeping the ball in the park is a valuable commodity, one that will also play during the hot summer days when the wind blows out at Wrigley.
Another great skill of his is getting groundballs. He induces them 52 percent of the time, as opposed to flyballs just 25 percent of the time.
Cubs: The financial issue of the Andrew Chafin signing
He is the team’s second-most expensive free agent signing behind Joc Pederson, who signed for $7 million (although a mutual option certainly muddies what that hit will be in 2021 alone). A relief pitcher should never be the second-priciest player a team signs, unless it’s the Kenley Jansens or Aroldis Chapmans of the world. The Cubs made an expensive reliever signing a few years back with Craig Kimbrel, and it’s safe to say Kimbrel has been a mixed bag so far.
That’s not a dig at Chafin either, but with the market the way it is, the Cubs may have very well overspent on him.
He’s definitely got redeeming qualities, the experience is there and the proven history success is evident. It’s understandable why the Cubs bought him back for this season, there just needs to be some more signings on top of Chafin if they want to truly compete in 2021.
Chicago has had success with pitchers like this. Given the team’s unwillingness to pay top-tier free agents again this winter, they’re banking on a bounceback from the southpaw.