In all my years of watching baseball, Jesse Chavez’s time with the Braves is one of the most peculiar cases I’ve ever covered.
A journeyman pitcher for nearly two decades, Chavez signed a minor-league deal with the Braves last year after contemplating retirement. A couple of months later, he was in the majors, and the rest is history. Chavez went on to become a critical piece of Atlanta’s bullpen, recording a 2.14 ERA over 33.2 regular season innings. And he was even better in the playoffs, tossing 6.1 scoreless innings.
Despite that, the Braves didn’t want to test their luck twice and let Chavez walk in the offseason, but clearly, they regretted that decision. Because not even a month into the season, the Braves traded back for Chavez, sending Sean Newcomb to the Cubs in return.
It was a good deal for both sides. Newcomb had run his course in Atlanta, but there was still some upside to interest Chicago. Meanwhile, Chavez was off to a rough start in the Windy City, surrendering four earned runs over his first three appearances.
I’m not sure what it is about Atlanta, but for some reason, Chavez really seems to enjoy pitching in a Braves uniform. He was lights out again this season, recording a 2.11 ERA over 38.1 innings, even though nearly all of the advanced metrics from Baseball Savant suggested he was a below-average pitcher. Maybe it’s something in the water; I can’t explain it, but Chavez simply just pitches better with the Braves. That’s why it was so surprising when it came out that he was included in the trade with the Angels for Raisel Iglesias.
It’s understandable. When you have the opportunity to upgrade, you take it, and Iglesias is undoubtedly an upgrade over Chavez. But still, it was a pretty shocking development, and Chavez was understandably blindsided when he was told.
However, that’s not what this piece is about. This is about the fact that since Chavez has left Atlanta, he’s turned back into a well-below-average pitcher in Los Angeles. In nine appearances for the Halos, he’s allowed nine earned runs — good for a 9.35 ERA. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if he is designated for assignment by the end of the season, and who knows, perhaps the Braves could be interested in another reunion. There’s nothing about Chavez’s repertoire that screams “stud reliever,” but for whatever reason, he seems to thrive when with the Braves. I wouldn’t be against a reunion, especially if Kirby Yates continues to struggle.