Padres sign Jhoulys Chacin to a one-year, $1.75 million deal.
Chacin, once upon a time, pitched to a 120 ERA+ for six years in Colorado, which qualifies as the third-greatest human feat of the decade. That stretch ended in 2014, though, and it ended poorly—Chacin’s final year with the Rockies saw him post a 5.40 ERA in 63 1/3 innings before succumbing to season-ending shoulder rehab. Since then he’s bounced around, to Cleveland, then to Arizona, then to Atlanta, then to Los Angeles. Last year, split between the Braves and Angels, he threw 144 innings with a 4.81 ERA, mostly as a starter. The surface-level numbers don’t look great, but Chacin’s 2.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-best of his career, and his 3.94 DRA ranked right between Sonny Gray and Vincent Velasquez (and ahead of Jake Arrieta).
Dig deeper, and there’s more good news. Chacin’s fastball averaged 92.95 mph last September, its highest mark since April 2010. In 2014 and 2015, when Chacin was battling the shoulder issues, his fastball velo dropped to 89 and change. So the improved heater works as a positive sign for two reasons: 1) that he’s healthier and 2) that he’s more effective at getting batters out.
There are still red flags, of course: most glaringly that the Padres were able to nab him for under $2 million in a relatively bleak free agent crop (though Chacin apparently did have a couple of better offers out there). The hope is that Chacin essentially keeps doing what he did last year, only with an ERA that better aligns with his peripherals. In that scenario, the Padres would have, by summer, both a reliable starting pitcher and an interesting trade chip. It’s the kind of no-brainer move that makes plenty of sense for a team in San Diego’s situation—or, really, any team.
And even if it doesn’t work out, at least Chacin drops Christian Friedrich from the No. 1 rotation slot on the Padres.com depth chart, which probably saves like 17 mean-spirited jokes from now to spring training.