December 12: The Tigers have now made it official, announcing their deal with Chafin and the details on the $1.25MM in annual incentives. In both 2024 and 2025, Chafin can get $125K for 50 games pitched, $250K each for 55 and 60 games pitched, $300K for 65 games pitched and $325K for 70 games pitched.
December 10: The Tigers are reportedly in agreement with left-hander Andrew Chafin on a one-year deal that includes a club option for the 2025 season, according to Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press. Petzold goes on to note that the contract comes with a $4.25MM base salary in 2024 that could reach $5.5MM with incentives. The club option, worth $6.5MM, could reach $7.75MM with incentives and comes with a $500K buyout, raising the contract’s total guarantee to $4.75MM.
It’s a reunion for the veteran lefty, who pitched in 64 games with the Tigers in 2022. Chafin, 34 in June, was a first-round pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft and made his big league debut not long after in 2014. He’d go on to play in Arizona for six-and-a-half seasons as a solid left-handed middle relief option, pitching to a 3.74 ERA in 306 innings of work with the Diamondbacks before being shipped to the Cubs at the trade deadline in 2020. During his time in Arizona, Chafin struck out 25.8% of batters faced while routinely posting groundball rates north of 50%. The lefty’s 2020 season was limited by injury woes to just 9 2/3 innings, but that didn’t stop Chicago from retaining him on the roster headed into the 2021 season.
2021 proved to be a breakout season for Chafin, who dominated in 43 appearances with the Cubs as one of the club’s primary set-up men to Craig Kimbrel alongside Ryan Tepera. Early in the 2021 season, Chafin combined with Tepera, Kimbrel and starting pitcher Zach Davies to no-hit the Dodgers for the first combined no-no in Cubs history. While Chafin helped to make history in Chicago, it wound up being little more than a footnote in his dominant 2021 campaign. The southpaw’s 24.7% strikeout rate and 50% groundball rate with the Cubs that year produced an impressive 2.06 ERA and 2.69 FIP. Upon a midseason trade to Oakland, Chafin unlocked another gear, posting a microscopic 1.53 ERA in 29 1/3 innings down the stretch to bring his overall season ERA down to just 1.83 over 68 2/3 innings of work. That performance was good for a whopping 229 ERA+.
Chafin’s strong 2021 campaign earned him a two-year guarantee in Detroit that included an opt-out after the first year of the deal. Though not as dominant as his 2021 campaign, Chafin put up strong numbers for the Tigers in 2022 with a 2.83 ERA and 3.06 FIP across 57 1/3 innings of work. His strikeout rate ticked up to 27.6% while he induced grounders 51.3% of the time. The solid performance backed up by excellent peripherals persuaded Chafin to opt-out of the final year and $6.5MM of his contract in Detroit last offseason. That decision ultimately did not go well, as Chafin signed with his original team in Arizona for just $6.25MM guaranteed last year after lingering on the free agent market until mid-February.
The veteran lefty went on to struggle in 2023, posting a 4.73 ERA and 4.01 FIP across 51 1/3 innings of work split between the Diamondbacks and Brewers last year. Chafin’s 28.1% strikeout rate was as good as ever, but he generated a groundball rate of just 38.5% while walking a career-high 12.5% of batters faced. Despite Chafin’s struggles in his age-33 season last year, the signing could prove wise for a Tigers club that was known to be interested in adding a lefty reliever to its bullpen should he find a way to either cut down on the walks or rediscover the proclivity for grounders he demonstrated in recent years.