There are many things that make baseball special, but one of them is the game’s ability to make fan favorites and heroes out of inexplicable players.
Sometimes it’s the graying fourth/fifth outfielder with plastic swords. Sometimes it’s a pudgy pinch hitter who wears a panda head and hits clutch dingers. And sometimes it’s Jesse Chavez.
A lot of people might forget that 2022 wasn’t even a second run with Atlanta. It was actually his third – and eventually fourth – after the now-39-year-old reliever first came to the Braves for the 2010 season in a deal that sent closer Rafael Soriano to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Side bar: I tried to understand why the Braves would’ve made this deal. There are articles on the internet about it still, but it doesn’t make a whole ton of sense to me. Back to the main point we go.
Anyway, Chavez was not good for the Braves that time around, posting a 5.89 ERA and 1.418 WHIP in 28 appearances before getting shipped off to Kansas City in the trade that brought Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth to Atlanta.
Fast-forward a decade or so, and the man of the impressive hats comes back to Atlanta. He pitches a fairly solid season for the 2021 World Series champions, posting a 2.14 ERA and 1.010 WHIP in the regular season and 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs.
“But Jeremy,” you may be asking, “This article is supposed to be about 2022, I thought?”
It is, and I’m getting there. Settle down.
When the 2022 season began, Chavez signed with the Cubs but appeared in just three games before being traded to Atlanta for Sean Newcomb. The veteran righty struggled in Chicago, allowing four earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings, but that didn’t matter to the fanbase. World Series Champion Jesse Chavez was coming back to town, and he wasn’t going to disappoint.
In 31 games before the trade deadline, Chavez pitched 38 1/3 innings for the Braves with a 2.11 ERA, but his journey wasn’t complete. He got traded to the Angels for Raisel Iglesias – the list of names from Braves lore that he’s been traded for is getting quite impressive – but struggled to the tune of nine earned runs in 10 2/3 innings. The Angels released him, and Braves Country was treated to not one, but TWO Jesse Chavez returns in a single season.
This time Chavez was a little more human, posting a 4.30 ERA over 14 2/3 innings to close out the season. He also gave up a pair of runs in 3 1/3 innings of the Braves NLDS loss to the Phillies.
All of that is plenty of roster shenanigans for one man, but the Jesse Chavez Experience in Atlanta hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. When the Braves announced the non-roster invites for 2023 Spring Training recently, guess whose name was on it?
That’s right, in the midst of a bunch of prospects of various pedigrees and one Kevin Pillar, there’s Jesse Chavez. And who knows who he’ll get traded for next.
I don’t recall the details of the Soriano for Chavez swap specifically, but feel like it was in the same vein as the Millwood for Estrada deal and was a crappy salary-cutting move after a player unexpectedly accepted arbitration (in Millwood’s case, it was Maddux who accepted arb). Glad to have moved on from those days.
Mac was pretty vicious about Chavez during that first go-around, and it took me a long time to get that taste out of my mouth. I’ve come around now, and I utterly adore the guy, but boy he wasn’t good back then.
Here’s a taste:
December 10, 2009:
April 2, 2010:
June 6, 2010:
In many ways, Jesse Chavez embodies a lot of what I love most about baseball. He’s had a long road, and frankly a great career — more than 1000 innings pitched across 15 major league seasons, after being selected as a 42nd-round draft pick — and he has earned every bit of the enormous respect and fondness that his teammates and fans have for him. It’s amazing that a guy who inspired all of that opprobrium almost a decade and a half ago is still around. What a great game this is.
He is also a completely different pitcher than in 2010. Now he relies on pinpoint control and lots of movement as he no longer throws hard at all.
Were it only possible to trade Jesse for Kelly Johnson the circle would be complete
Yeah, it’s really interesting to read about 2009-2010 Jesse Chavez since that’s a completely different Jesse Chavez today, as others are noting. It’s fun to understand the evolution of a pitcher like this. He’s made $23M in his career, much of which came after age 30 and undoubtedly after his physical abilities diminished. Good for him. I’m seeing on B-Ref that he’ll make $1.2M this year if he makes the roster.
Almost forgot about The Lisp.
I’m sure those marginal/journeyman players from relatively recent yesteryear — a Rafael Ramirez, Barry Bonnell or Doug Bair, say — really can’t believe the dough that’s available for similar or lesser players now.
At least those guys get their full pensions.
MLBTR chat with Brandon Beachy is pretty nice:
RAJ cleared to play in WBC.
Hope he plays well, doesn’t get hurt again & comes into the season primed & ready to kick ass.
I’m glad the team is letting him play for his country. It clearly means a lot to him and the vibes have seemed weirdly off between him and Atlanta lately.
New series. New thread.