Feb. 23: The Rangers have announced the signing. Chavez does indeed go on the 40-man roster, taking the place of left-hander Joe Palumbo, who has been transferred to the 60-day DL in a corresponding move. Palumbo underwent Tommy John surgery last April and will not be ready for the start of the season.
Feb. 22: Chavez’s deal is a guaranteed, Major League contract at $1MM, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. He’ll get a 40-man roster spot, it seems, and Chavez’s base salary will elevate to $1.5MM once he is placed on the 25-man roster. Cotillo notes that there’s a very strong chance that Chavez breaks camp on the Rangers’ roster.
Feb. 21: The Rangers are in agreement on a contract with veteran right-hander Jesse Chavez, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (Twitter links). The Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon client seems to have signed a non-guaranteed deal, as Heyman notes that the pact calls for a $1MM base that’ll increase to $1.5MM if he makes the big league roster. Chavez’s contract has $500K worth of incentives based on relief appearances and $1MM based on starts, Heyman adds.
Now 34 years of age, Chavez will return to the organization that gave him his first professional opportunity. Texas selected Chavez in the 42nd round of the 2002 draft — a round that no longer even exists in modern drafts — and the righty spend parts of four seasons in their system before being traded to the Pirates in the 2006 Kip Wells swap.
Chavez went on to make his big league debut with the 2008 Pirates, and he’s spent time with six additional big league organizations since that time (primarily with Oakland). Chavez’s 2017 season was spent with the division-rival Angels, for whom he pitched to a disappointing 5.35 ERA in 138 innings. Chavez managed respectable marks of 7.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 41.1 percent ground-ball rate, but like so many other pitchers throughout MLB was plagued by the long ball; in those 138 frames, he surrendered 28 big flies — good for a career-worst 1.83 HR/9 mark.
Texas has been aggressively stockpiling veteran arms on which to rely over the course of the season, adding Doug Fister on a low-cost MLB deal while also picking up Chavez, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Edinson Volquez on minor league contracts. (Volquez’s deal was a two-year minor league deal, as he’ll miss 2018 recovering from August Tommy John surgery.)
The Rangers currently project to have Cole Hamels, Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor and Matt Bush in their rotation. There’s plenty of talent in that bunch, to be sure, as each has had big league success at various points. However, it’s a fairly uncertain group at present.
Hamels is coming off a down season in which he logged significant time on the DL, and Moore, too, is in need of a rebound after a dreadful showing with the 2017 Giants. Minor, meanwhile, will be returning to a rotation role for the first time in four years, and Bush has never worked as a starter. Fister posted promising peripherals in a tough AL East last year, but he hasn’t had a full season with above-average run prevention numbers since 2014. Given the uncertainty among that group, it makes sense for GM Jon Daniels and his staff to create a fairly large supporting cast of experienced arms to serve as insurance.
Chavez has extensive experience both as a starter and reliever, so he’ll add to that depth and can support the group either as a rotation option in the upper minors or perhaps as a swingman at the big league level. He has a career 4.69 ERA in 742 2/3 Major League innings and enjoyed a solid run from 2013-16, during which time he sported a 3.94 ERA and 3.85 FIP in 427 1/3 frames.