As we approach the trading deadline, we start to get down to the nitty-gritty. Teams, for some reason, like to wait until the last second to begin making their trade offers, possibly waiting out the market to see how things shake out or wanting to drive down the price of the seller. The Padres entered the week having several interesting options that they could flip to other teams. One of them, Trevor Cahill, they flipped to the Kansas City Royals in addition to Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer. With the Royals attempting one more run at a playoff spot with their core before it all falls apart, the Padres struck by packaging several pieces together to get some very interesting pieces.
Now, the Padres turn to the possibility of trading another part of their rotation, Jhoulys Chacín. With that in mind, let’s look at what might happen with the 29 year old right hander.
Numbers (all through Sunday, 7/23)
20 GS, 114 IP, 4.26 ERA (4.38 FIP), 20.0 K%, 8.3 BB%, 52.9 GB%, 1.18 HR/9, .285 BABIP
In fantasy baseball, there is an acronym that many people go by when constructing a pitching staff: LAIM. It stands for League Average Innings Muncher. This is the perfect description of what Chacín is to the Padres this season. He’s been durable, isn’t killing them with too many bad starts (even if he’s averaging less than 6 innings per start), gets a fair amount of groundballs and generally has been everything they could have asked for this year. He’s not overwhelming hitters, as evidenced by a less than average strikeout rate, but he’s also controlling the strike zone with a better than average walk rate. The difference between his ERA and FIP suggest that he’s not been overtly unlucky, so there should not be much in the way of regression the rest of the way. Basically, he is what he is. He’ll steady a back of a rotation, but shouldn’t be counted on for much more than that.
Where does he fit?
What teams can use an arm like Chacín? Well, all of them. Contenders like the Twins, Angels, Mariners, and Cubs are all in the bottom half the league when it comes to WAR from their starters. Other playoff chasers like the Astros, Brewers, Yankees and Rays all have had solid contributions from their starters, but could be looking for a boost to their own rotation. The hard part is that a lot of the contenders that are in most need of starting pitching (Cubs, Astros) are publicly stating they want pitchers with team control left, something Chacín does not provide on his one year contract. Yet what he does provide is an inexpensive option for the back end of a rotation since his contract is only for $1.75 million this year. There hasn’t been a whole lot of chatter about him on MLB Trade Rumors, so it’s tough to pinpoint exactly who would want him without getting into speculation. However, it’s probably safe to say that anyone who needs a solid back end starter should be interested in Chacín.
What would the return look like for his services?
This is the tricky part – determining what the Padres could get in return for Chacín. And it’s tricky for a number of factors.
First, the market is flooded with pitching right now, especially ones that are clearly better than Chacín. Rumors have Sonny Gray as good as gone from the Oakland A’s and lately, Yu Darvish has been placed on the market as well. Darvish is also a rental pitcher available for teams and unlike Chacín, is a true difference maker for a team to go and get. Couple that with names like Jeremy Hellickson, and those looking to bolster their staff have plenty of options. If a team enters into talks with A.J. Preller and doesn’t like what the asking price is, they can simply move onto the next player, possibly at a lower price of prospects.
Second, as I mentioned before, if a team were trading for a pitcher for the playoffs, there are other pitchers available that a team could control past 2017 were they to acquire them. We’ve already seen Jose Quintana traded to the Cubs and he cost them their top two prospects in return. The same would go with Gray, whom a team could control for several more seasons after this. Team control is the latest currency teams like to deal in, especially with prospect prices at an all-time high. Front offices have to figure that if they are going to give up the team control that comes with a prospect, they should probably be getting some control back in return.
Lastly, is Chacín simply worth more to the Padres now than trading him would be? What the team could get back simply may not be worth trading at this point. They have to get major league innings somewhere to finish the season, so trading Chacín simply to hopefully get something back in return might not make the most sense. Many of their best prospects are not ready and there is still ~60 games left to play. If they are running out pitchers who are not ready to perform, it could end up hurting them long term. Therefore, simply keeping Chacín to finish out the season with a viable major league arm might be a better option than letting some younger kid get his brains beat in.
However, the Cahill trade kind of lays a blueprint for what they could get in return. They had to package several arms in order to get the Royals top prospect (Matt Strahm), but he is coming off of a major knee surgery and an infield prospect (Esteury Ruiz) that could blossom into something great if it all comes together. Were the Padres to trade Chacín by himself, the best they might be able to is something along the lines of Ruiz, but even that might be wishful thinking. A wild card arm or talented, but raw bat is the best target when it comes to the return for Chacín.
As much as Preller might want to move Chacín and get that wild card minor leaguer, my guess is that he will stay put as the trade deadline passes by. My thinking is that what teams are offering is simply not worth trading him away at this point, and they will instead count on him to soak up innings in the waning weeks of the season. It may not be the best outcome in terms of the rebuild, but this is what is probably best for the team at this point.