Blue Jays Reacquire Pitcher Jesse Chavez

Liam Hendriks
Liam Hendriks

The Blue Jays made a move to address their starting rotation needs yesterday by adding starter Jesse Chavez from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks.


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Chavez previously had a brief stop in Toronto in 2012 after he was selected off waivers from the Kansas City Royals and he pitched for most of that season before being sold to the A’s in August. Chavez’s best pre-2013 season was his second year of 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he had a 4.01 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He bounced around, spending time with Atlanta, K.C. and Toronto until he found his niche in Oakland, making 35 appearances in 2013 with a 3.92 ERA. Chavez moved into the rotation, making 21 starts in 2014 and logged a 3.45 ERA over 146 innings and last year, he pitched a career-high 157 innings with a 4.18 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP and 3.85 FIP (and 3.89 xFIP), accumulating 2.3 fWAR.



In the trade, the Blue Jays are giving up a power arm in the bullpen who was one of the club’s most reliable relievers in 2015. Liam Hendriks had been a journeyman starter, mostly with the Twins, Blue Jays and Royals until last season when, being out of minor league options, the Jays kept Hendriks in the major league bullpen out of spring training. As Kyle Matte of Captial Jays has written, Hendriks’ 2015 season was unprecedented. Hendriks had averaged right around 90 mph with his fastball in 2011 through 2013 with the Twins. In 2014 (with Toronto and K.C.), he averaged a little bit harder at 91.3 mph for his four-seamer. In 2015, that velocity jumped another three-to-four miles per hour as PITCHf/x registered his four-seam fastball at 94.5 mph and his two-seamer at 94.8 mph.


In 2015, Hendriks had a 2.92 ERA, 2.14 FIP, 2.80 xFIP and was worth 1.5 fWAR, striking out 27.2% of batters and only walking 4.2%. In addition, his ground ball rate also spiked (up to a career-high 46.3%) and his home run rate dropped to an unsustainably low 5.5%.


In the end, whether you like this trade or not depends on three things. The first is whether you value a mediocre starter over a good reliever. One projection for Chavez has him throwing 140 innings with a 3.99 ERA. Steamer projections has him throwing 159 innings with a 3.90 ERA and 2.0 fWAR. Steamer has Hendriks throwing 65 innings with a 2.95 ERA and a 0.9 fWAR.


Clearly getting Chavez would give the Jays more value as a starter over what Hendriks could give you as a reliever but one could make a case for the Blue Jays chasing a championship with the Royals’ model of having a whole series of lights-out relievers. If the Jays keep everyone in the ‘pen from last year, Hendriks would give the Blue Jays four very strong relievers in Osuna, Sanchez, Cecil and the Aussie.


The second factor in deciding whether you like the trade or not is how you project the players to pitch in 2016. Was Hendriks a flash in the pan? Is his revitalization and increased velocity a fleeting moment and will he be back to whatever he was doing previously? Matte noted that Hendriks’ fastball velocity actually rose throughout the season, peaking in September which could indicate that it’s no fluke and that he has found a way to not only increase his velocity at age 26, but he’s found a way to sustain it.


In Chavez’s case, you have to ask yourself how he’s going to pitch in Toronto. Oakland is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball and he’s going to be going to one of the least pitcher-friendly parks. On the same note, similar things were said about Marco Estrada, especially about how he gave up a lot of home runs and how that would not play in a stadium like the Rogers Centre. Estrada is much more of a fly-ball pitcher than Chavez (with 32.2% of balls in play on the ground when Chavez induces 42-43% annually) and his ability to keep hitters off balance and induce soft contact allowed Estrada’s home run tendency to be a non-factor in 2015. Chavez looks like he’ll be able to survive that.


The final factor to deciding how to evaluate the trade is looking at how long each player is under team control. Chavez earned $2.15 million last year and is arbitration eligible for the last time this year. He’s expected to earn about $4.7 million (thanks to the MLB Trade Rumors estimate) and will be a free agent after 2016 whereas Hendriks isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2017 and not to be a free agent until 2020. Obviously this is a “going for it” move, looking to add a starting pitcher for the back end of the rotation at a reasonable rate in exchange for power arm in the bullpen who the club may be trading at the peak of his value.


What do you think of the trade?


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5 thoughts on “Blue Jays Reacquire Pitcher Jesse Chavez

  1. Personally, so long as they address the pen issue before the season starts, I like the deal. It gives them more innings, more flexibility, and it lowers the pressure of having to spend too much on a starter. If you wave around the salary Chavez will make in 2016, you won’t get much on the FA market. And, he’s very motivated to do well since he’ll be a FA after 2016. Also, he’s a very good friend of Josh Donaldson’s, and although you point to a pitcher friendly stadium in Oakland, it was also one of the worst defensive teams in baseball. In Toronto, many ground balls that should be hits won’t be, they’ll be outs and double-plays.

    I expect him to win the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation and to pitch a robust 180+ innings, surprising everyone in baseball.

    As you can tell, I’m a big fan of what he can provide the Jays while pitching for a much better team and now being fully integrated into his starter’s role.

    1. Chavez is not a mediocre starter. He is projected to have 2.2 WAR. more than good enough for a 5th starter. Years of control are not an issue. Jays like the one year as they don’t want vets on long contracts blocking any of the plethora of young arms we still possess. Hendriks having 4 years of control is meaningless imo as it remains to be seen whether he can pitch in the show that long. There is only upside with this trade. I see no possible downside. This was only available as A’s making salary dump. Huge thumbs up to Jays for taking advantage of situation.

  2. Yuch! I really liked Hendricks and Chavez has been brutal most of the time. He is even worse out of the bullpen. I wanted him on the mound when we faced the A’s. It was clobberin’ time, now our competition can think the same way.

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