Ever since news broke that Lance Lynn would miss the entire 2016 season, the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to starting pitchers of all of types, from the top of the market with David Price to the tail-end of the market with Mark Buehrle. While the addition of Price would definitely provide a substantial impact, nothing has even begun to materialize outside of a predictable Price quote given to KMOX by USA Today baseball columnist Bob Nightengale. Just two days ago, I provided my stance on the possible addition of a 36-year-old Buehrle.
Thus, if one believes the Cardinals need to acquire a starting pitcher for 2016 (given health questions tied to the projection rotation, they probably do), despite having depth available in Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons, and Marco Gonzales, I think it would be wise for Mozeliak and company to get creative and look beyond a likely overpriced free agent market, especially if they are serious about spending big to bring back Jason Heyward. And while it doesn't make much sense that the Athletics would be willing to trade Jesse Chavez (even after agreeing to a one-year deal with Rich Hill), Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that "multiple teams have showed significant trade interest" in the 32-year-old right-hander.
Despite Passan's report of "significant" demand, Chavez will likely come at a more reasonable price than pitchers comparable in quality on the free agent market. Of course, this is one of those scenarios where it is "free agents only cost money" versus "trade targets cost prospects." And cutting one's losses on money spent is much more palatable than watching one of your team's prospects thrive wearing the uniform of another organization, but in certain situations, this is the risk a general manager has to take. If the 2015 trade deadline is any indication, Mozeliak is willing to take such a risk (i.e. Rob Kaminsky for Brandon Moss, Malik Collymore for Jonathan Broxton).
There is an obstacle to acquiring Chavez, though. Former Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz is the assistant general manager for the Athletics. If any "outsider" knows which Cardinals prospects project better than others, it's Kantrovitz because he likely had a significant hand in drafting the given player. Thus, Mozeliak will have to be supremely diligent in his review of the farm system before deciding on which prospects he would be willing to part with for Chavez.
As you can see, he is average to above average in every category, and for a fifth starter, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Plus, peripherally, he has actually been well above average as his 3.74 xFIP over the last two seasons is 44th best among MLB pitchers with at least 250 innings pitched, notably ahead of potential future teammates Michael Wacha (3.82) and Lance Lynn (3.86).
Beyond statistics, what is so appealing about Jesse Chavez, and why should the Cardinals target him?
His repertoire. It's complex and filthy—a desirable combination. Chavez has the ability to throw six unique pitches, and each one possesses a great deal of movement (both horizontally and vertically), as you will see below:
Remember: Regarding horizontal movement for right-handed pitchers, a negative value means arm side movement and a positive value means glove-side movement
|Pitch||Frequency||Velocity (MPH)||Dragless Horiz. Mov. (in.)||Dragless Vert. Mov. + Gravity (in.)|
The numbers speak for themselves, but I will bring up a sequence to help paint a picture of Chavez's filthiness. If Chavez gets a hitter into an 0-1 count, he can throw a curveball followed by changeup, and the hitter, from a horizontal movement standpoint, will perceive a difference in movement between the two pitches at 27.36 inches, or 2.28 feet. That just is not fair, especially if a free-swinger is at the plate.
In general, 32-year-old pitchers do not possess much upside. I honestly don't believe this to be the case with Chavez, though. Whether it is a narrative or not, the Cardinals are notorious for getting the most out of pitchers. A big part of this can be attributed to the tireless work of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist. Another contributing factor is catcher Yadier Molina, and his invaluable ability to sequence pitches, his ability to shut down the running game, his ability to slow the game down when necessary through mound visits, and his ability to frame pitches.
A third factor to consider is the fact that Cardinals pitchers, as I am sure is the case with most MLB teams, consistently work in unison, from spring training in February through the playoffs in October/November. They are constantly watching their teammates' bullpen sessions to provide insight when necessary, particularly Adam Wainwright. If a pitcher has a question about a given pitch grip, they are more than willing to share that information as well. Chavez will only benefit from these new resources being made available to him.
Chavez changeup in slow-motion