The Diamondbacks said farewell to one of the franchise’s bullpen stalwarts.
- Rating: 4.05
- Age: 30
- 2020 season stats (AZ): 1-2 (1-1), 15 (11) G, 6.52 (8.10) ERA, 1.655 (1.950) WHIP, -0.2 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR
- 2020 salary: $3,045,000 (Arb 3)
- 2021 status: Free Agent
There really is not much need to give Andrew Chafin much of an introduction. The left-handed reliever is one of the franchise’s most prolific relievers, ranking second in appearances (Ziegler) and third in innings pitched (Ziegler, Kim). A member of the highly-touted 2011 draft class, the Diamondbacks made Chafin their third pick at #43 overall, after already selecting Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley. Had COVID-19 not blown up the 2020 season, Chafin would have had a strong chance at becoming the franchise leade in both appearances and reliever innings pitched. Instead, COVID and injury limited Chafin’s appearances. Because of this, his departure, rather than being a solemn farewell to a long-time team veteran, was a largely overlooked footnote to the season.
Andrew Chafin entered the 2020 season with something of an overblown reputation of being the highly effective reliever who always made things more interesting than they needed to be. Somewhere along the line, likely in 2018, Chafin got the reputation of being the guy that would walk the first batter he faced before finally getting the job done. Because he was entering his final season of team control, there was some pre-season speculation that Chafin would be traded. However, Chafin made moves in the offseason to field a competitive, potential playoff team. This included the non-move of retaining lefty reliever Andrew Chafin, holder of a 3.57 ERA and 122 ERA+ for the Diamondbacks from 2014-2019. Despite the narrative, it was difficult to argue the team was better off without him. Then COVID hit.
Once the season was finally underway, Chafin did nothing to dispel the narrative of being a walk-issuing reliever. In his first appearance of the season, he pitched one full inning, facing only three batters, yet walking one and striking out two. Chafin pitched again the next afternoon, facing only three batters. He walked two and did not record an out. Two days later, one batter, one strikeout. The day after that, he faced three batters, walked one, and allowed three earned runs, all while not retiring a batter. In a span of five days, Chafin made four appearances that spanned a total of 1 2⁄3 innings, while walking four and allowing four earned runs.
Arizona fandom began to lose patience with Chafin’s name being called as a reliever. In a short season such as the one being played in 2020, those early losses that Chafin was part of put the team firmly behind the eight ball. There is though, something that is a near-constant among relievers. They are inconsistent. If they weren’t, most would be starters. Chafin is no exception to this rule. While fans started calling for Chafin to be relegated to mop-up duty, all based on the definition of a small sample size of four outings, Chafin found his groove. He only walked one more batter the rest of the season, and that was after he was traded to the Cubs.
In fact, Chafin’s best outing of the season is the one which followed up his three earned run, zero out meltdown. Four days later, while the Diamondbacks were facing the hated Dodgers, Chafin faced four batters and recorded four outs, two by way of strikeout. He capped that appearance off with doing what he made his career out of, over matching a lefty hitter. In this case, it was reigning MVP, Cody Bellinger.
Chafin only made six more appearances for the Diamondbacks after that pitch. On August 19th, he was placed on the IL with a sprained finger on his pitching hand. Then, at the eleventh hour of the trade deadline, Chafin was traded to the Chicago Cubs for the oft-travelled PTBNL. That player turned out to be 20-year-old switch-hitting Dominican utility infielder, Ronny Simon. Simon, thanks to COVID, has yet to play affiliated ball outside of the Dominican Summer League.
Andrew Chafin recovered from his sprained finger in time to make four appearances for the Cubs before the end of the season. He is now a free agent. In normal years, Chafin’s lengthy track record of success and his bounce back after the rough outing early in the season would likely have him in line for a handsome, multi-year contract. At age 30, his age is not yet working against him, but time is also not on his side. However, this is not a normal season. It is anybody’s guess where Chafin could end up, or what kind of deal he will eventually sign. With teams looking to dramatically slash payroll, Chafin is unlikely to have nearly as many suitors as he was originally planning on. He may end up getting stuck with a one-year deal at a discounted rate, which would be unfortunate, as he has certainly put in the work to deserve more. While the eventual deal is uncertain, it is still hard to imagine that Chafin will still be a free agent by late-January. Teams are still going to need left-handed relief help and Chafin is arguably one of the very best lefty relievers on the free agent market not named Brad Hand.