The market for lefty reliever Andrew Chafin is “heating up,” per Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link), and the Mets are among the teams with interest. SNY’s Andy Martino tweets that as many as seven other clubs have been talking with Chafin, however. Mets GM Billy Eppler said yesterday that he still hoped to add another outfielder and a reliever, and he’s checked one of those two items off his list before lunch today by agreeing to a one-year deal with Tommy Pham.
Chafin, 32, is quite arguably the best reliever remaining on the free-agent market and entered the offseason as one of the top overall lefties available. He declined a $6.5MM player option with the Tigers at the end of the 2022 season and ought to be able to clear that guarantee by a fair measure — likely on a multi-year deal. That’s to be expected after the southpaw turned in a 2.83 ERA inn 57 1/3 innings last season while drawing similar reviews from fielding-independent marks like FIP (3.06), xERA (2.92) and SIERA (2.97).
While Chafin doesn’t throw especially hard, averaging just 91.8 mph on his heater in 2022, the veteran southpaw does offer one of the best blends of missed bats, solid command and ground-ball tendencies of any reliever in the game. Chafin fanned 27.6% of his opponents in 2022, combining that with a quality 7.8% walk rate and a 51.3% ground-ball rate. Chafin was one of just nine qualified relievers in all of baseball who topped a 25% strikeout rate and 50% ground-ball rate while also sporting a walk rate lower than 8%. He also limited hard contact quite well, yielding an 87.5 mph average exit velocity that ranked in the 73rd percentile of pitchers and a 33.8% hard-hit rate that sat in the 81st percentile, per Statcast.
Chafin isn’t necessarily elite in any one single way, but he’s well above-average in a variety of important areas. Coupled with his age and handedness, that ought to lead to widespread appeal on the free-agent market. The bullpen market as a whole got out to a quick start, but the market for lefties has been slower to develop — evidenced by the fact that Chafin, Matt Moore, Will Smith, Brad Hand and Zack Britton are among the still-available names.
The Mets indeed represent a nice fit for Chafin, though a veteran of this stature is an upgrade to virtually any bullpen in the sport. New York currently projects to have Brooks Raley and perhaps one of David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi or Tayler Saucedo in the ’pen as lefty options for manager Buck Showalter. Adding Chafin could allow the Mets to either carry three southpaws or to begin the year with both Peterson and Lucchesi in the Triple-A rotation, keeping both stretched out as viable starting depth in the event of injuries at the MLB level.
Again, though, there simply aren’t many teams that Chafin wouldn’t improve, so finding suitors for him is likely more a matter of determining how many motivated spenders remain on the market. The Mets certainly fall into that bucket and wouldn’t bat an eye at the 90% luxury tax they’ll have to pay on top of Chafin’s salary, but there are certainly other contenders and hopeful contenders with some money to spend who could give the Mets some competition in the bidding.