Editors' Note: This is the first in a series of FanPosts from those AN members looking towards a weekly front page writing gig. This note will appear above every FanPost for this purpose. Community: please provide feedback and/or recs where you see appropriate.
Thanks! - cuppingmaster
Here’s how I spent my Tuesday night, way over here on the East Coast (and when I say “coast,” I mean like 4 ½-hours from the big water) — under-dressed as always for the interesting (cold) weather, I settled in for what I hoped would be a fantastic high school soccer game. Being a man of many talents — at least three, I think — I kept my eye on MLB Game Day via the trusty smart phone.
Well, the soccer game was a mess — two red cards left one team two men down, including their keeper — by the end of yet another bracing (cold) Mid-Atlantic evening. Apparently the A’s game was a mess, too — a good mess — from what I saw sporadically on my phone and what I read in baseballgirl’s recap. Our win-starved A’s broke loose for run(s) — actual runs, in duplicate! A gluttony of offense! A feast of runs! Don’t know about you, but during a feast I have the disturbing habit of dwelling on famine.
And that brings me to … Jesse Chavez. This post is in no way meant to disparage, denigrate or besmirch the good name of the aforementioned right-hander. I truly, honestly with all my being hope for the best each and every time the Victorville kid trots out from the bullpen … that said, Jesse is the Grim Reaper. See him right now, and the game is already lost. He’s the cleaner, the mop-up man, the second choice to Evan Scribner. It’s a dirty job, for sure — Jim Miller, Cedrick Bowers, David Pursey can all attest to that. It’s why Jesse Chavez is with the A’s, here and now, instead of Dan Straily or Sonny Gray, two imminently more promising options who could have gotten the short-term call to bolster Oakland’s gassed relief corps. Chavez, with a well-deserved reputation for rubber-armedness, has done this before — albeit badly, most of the time — and he’s nothing if not expendable, right?
Maybe so, but Jesse Chavez seems to have fascinated baseball teams for the better part of a decade now. And that fascinates me.
First, a bit of history on our star-crossed slider slinger. Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 42nd round of the 2002 amateur draft, Chavez signed in May of the following year and started his slow climb through the Rangers’ system. He never made it to the big club, though — the Rangers sent him in a July deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates for two gloriously wretched Kip Wells starts in 2006. Two years in the Pittsburgh system, and the Bucs thought they had found themselves a jewel of a reliever. After a disturbing hittable line in his first full crack at AAA in 2007, Chavez had a breakout season in 2008 and even earned closer duties for Indianapolis. He also got his first big-league call-up. It didn’t go well — 20 hits and nine walks in 15 innings, but hey, he did strike out 16!
A full year with decent results followed in Pittsburgh — with 73 appearances spanning 67.1 innings, Jesse proved his durability if nothing else — and then Chavez was on the move once more in a straight up deal with Tampa Bay for the amazing Akinori Iwamura. For the Pirates, that was a starting third baseman for a second-fiddle set-up guy — great return! — eh, yeah.
The Rays didn’t play with their shiny new toy for long, somehow convincing the Atlanta Braves to part with Rafael Soriano in another straight-up swap (hint: cost and control) just about a month later. Jesse didn’t jib with the National League, apparently, giving up an alarming six home runs in just less than 36 innings for the Braves in 2010. Naturally, the Kansas City Royals had to have him — they got their man, along with Gregor Blanco and the infuriatingly effective Tim Collins, for the small price of Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. Chavez didn’t get any better — 11 bombs surrendered in just 67 1/3 innings for the Royals — and a typically Chavez-esque start to the 2011 campaign (9 ER in 7 2/3 inning spanning four dreadful appearances) convinced KC that the time had come to part ways with their option-less find.
Toronto was quick to pounce on the waiver wire, snapping up Chavez like a Rocky III DVD in the Wal-Mart bargain bin. They, too, had their moments with Jesse — 21 1/3 innings worth, including two starts, time enough to give up 10 more homers.
Another DFA, and we’re up to the A’s part in this sordid history of blown chances. The A’s — credit or whatever else should go to scouting, rather than the ubiquitous “Billy Beane coveted him” tagline — had ample opportunity to check out Chavez while he toiled, mostly successfully, at Triple-A Las Vegas. In the midst of an improbable playoff chase, Oakland pulled the trigger, opened up the coin purse, and paid — paid actual money — to land Chavez. He was … not so good. In four appearances, a mere 3 1/3 innings, Jesse served up seven earned runs. My green-and-gold clad Grim Reaper had arrived at last. Given a choice between Jeremy Accardo, Tyson Ross and Jesse late last season, Chavez might well have finished fourth behind Eric Sogard in an AN poll for last-gasp relief options.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the A’s not only kept Chavez, but also spent a coveted roster spot for the privilege. They didn’t do that for Jim Miller, who at times pitched effectively. Big difference, though — Chavez has an option left, Miller didn’t. Travis Blackley didn’t, either, and off he went. So there’s that — Chavez offers Oakland the flexibility to move him up and down at will this season, just like Scribner, giving the A’s a revolving long-man option. But Bruce Billings or Andrew Werner could do that just as easily, or Graham Godfrey before the A’s gave him away for five minutes of Sandy Rosario. Tyson Ross was grooming for this same gig just last year, and even he was less horrible (ah, relative terms).
So what is it about Chavez? Why him? Why now, in a pennant-contending season?
Although undersized, Chavez has a four-pitch repertoire and still boasts above-average velocity and rings up his share of strikeouts, even if the movement on his fastball leaves a bit to be desired. Chavez has decent stuff, and tolerable control. His problem has always been command, judging by his consistently high home run rates. If he can somehow get just at tick better in that category, if he could just catch a bit less of that plate — ifs, ands and buts, right? — Chavez could potentially be yet another in the long line of scrap-heap gold the A’s have uncovered over the years. Until then, he’ll just be shoveling more dirt on a disappointing outcome.