The 2017-2018 offseason is here for the Minnesota Twins. Who could be Twins be targeting in the free agent market?
Now that the Minnesota Twins have entered the offseason, they are looking to improve the roster through trades and through free agent signings. In this series, we’re going to examine individual players that the Minnesota Twins could have interest in this offseason through free agency.
We will not have any specific order to which player we highlight in this series, but we will look at each player’s past history, why he would be a good fit for the Minnesota Twins, and, last, the sort of contract likely to be required to sign the player.
We will continue the series with another look at a starting pitcher available on the market…
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
Chacin was signed by the Colorado Rockies in the international free agent market in 2004, but he wouldn’t make his pro debut until 2006. He did make an impression right away, jumping up to high-A by the end of 2008 and reaching the majors in 2009 at 21 years old. Chacin was even a top 100 prospect, ranking #46 for Baseball America before 2009 and #71 before 2010 and ranking #27 for Baseball Prospectus before 2009.
Chacin spent most of 2010 at the majors, throwing 137 1/3 innings over 28 appearances, 21 of them starts. He posted a 3.28 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and a 61/138 BB/K ratio.
He came out and performed similarly in 2011, but difficulty with repeating his mechanics and controlling the break of his curveball in the Coors Field air, which led to Chacin leading the National League in walks. Overall, his numbers were solid, however, as he threw 194 innings, with a 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and a 87/150 BB/K ratio.
Shoulder issues began to plague Chacin in the 2012 season as the Rockies attempted to work with his delivery. From 2012 until he was released by the Rockies in spring training 2015, Chacin still had average numbers, with 329 2/3 innings thrown, a 4.04 ERA (good for a 110 ERA+ in the Colorado run environment), 1.37 WHIP, and 121/213 BB/K ratio.
The Indians initially signed Chacin on a minor league deal, but at the time of his opt-out, there was not a major league job for him in their organization, so he was granted free agency. The next day he signed with the Diamondbacks, and he finished 2015 with the D-backs, posting a 3.38 ERA over 26 2/3 innings with a 1.28 WHIP, and a 10/21 BB/K.
He signed a minor league deal with the Braves to open 2016, and he found his way into the 5th starter job for the Braves, making 5 starts for the Braves, and showing enough in those 5 starts for the Angels, desperate for innings, traded a low-level prospect to the Braves for Chacin and got below league-average production from him, with a total between the Braves and Angels of 144 innings, a 4.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and a 55/119 BB/K ratio.
The Padres nabbed Chacin in the offseason, and he was easily their most consistent starter on the 2017 season, throwing 180 1/3 innings, allowing a 3.89 ERA and 1.27 WHIP while posting a 72/153 BB/K.
How he would fit
Chacin has always been a guy with an excellent sinker and hard curve/slider that also relied on a high spin rate. Yet he was in Colorado, where spin goes to die in general. It’s a big reason why his four-seam and change up usage while in Colorado was roughly 50-55% as those pitches aren’t as altered by the Colorado air.
This past season Chacin not just threw 85% sinkers/sliders/curves, but he also saw his velocity jump nearly a full MPH on his fastball. While he’s not going to average mid-90s or anything, he seems to find more spin as he adds that touch more velocity.
Chacin has also drastically simplified his delivery, which means when he misses bad with his pitches, it’s due to losing grip on a pitch, not an issue with his delivery anymore.
Chacin would be a second signing type that would give the Minnesota Twins a full year of the “good months” of Kyle Gibson that they received in 2017.
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Chacin is in that second or even third tier of starters in the market this year, and that could allow him to be a good bargain, especially based on what he could provide with his improved sinker/slider combination at the back of the rotation.
That said, teams are smart and likely will have noted Chacin’s improved underlying performance in 2017. The Twins will want to ensure they don’t get into any sort of bidding war over a guy like Chacin.
I would see Chacin as a good target on a 1 year, $5-7 million deal with a vesting option for 2018. If he has to go to multiple years to sign, I’d not go 3 years without a significant annual salary discount, so something like 3/$13 million, but most likely something like 2 years and $10 million with some incentives would probably get the job done (and be cheaper than Gibson).
Keep in mind that while he has multiple years of big league experience, Chacin will just turn 30 in January, so he’s not exactly beyond the opportunity to put together 2-3 productive seasons at the back of the rotation.
Should the Minnesota Twins do it?
Of course, as with most players after the top 4 starters, the main issue will be avoiding a bidding war. Chacin’s excellent performance in San Diego in 2017 is certainly something that he could reproduce in Minnesota, and that’d be quite valuable for the contract mentioned.