July 23, 2024

16-year MLB veteran still seeking contract, ‘probably’ going to retire after 2024 season…

Pitching for nine different clubs in 607 games as a reliever, starter, and swingman, Jesse Chavez has participated in every one of the last 16 Major League Baseball seasons. In an interview with MLB Network Radio’s “Loud Outs” program on SiriusXM, Chavez, a free agent still seeking his next deal, disclosed that he will probably retire after one more season.

“This is probably going to be it.  We all talked about me going out the way I came in — being able to roll out of bed and pick up a baseball and throw it,” Chavez said.  “And that’s how I feel still.  So I feel like that’s kind of unique in a way, where we don’t get that option too many times when we can go home healthy….Like every year, we’ll probably give it all we have, and go into coaching next season.”

Chavez has had his share of injuries over his long career, including an absence of over three months last season after he was hit in the leg by a comebacker.  That lengthy IL stint limited him to 34 1/3 innings and 36 appearances for the Braves, yet Chavez had an impact with a 1.56 ERA.  Even with a 3.35 SIERA that accounts for some strand rate (81.2%) and batted-ball (.273 BABIP) fortune, Chavez still had an above-average strikeout rate, solid hard-contact numbers, and a career-best 51.7% grounder rate.

It continued what has quietly been a bit of a renaissance for Chavez in the twilight of his career, as the right-hander has a 2.81 ERA over 137 2/3 innings since Opening Day 2021.  He struggled in brief stints with the Cubs and Angels in 2022, but has otherwise been excellent in a Braves uniform, including a 2.14 ERA in 33 2/3 innings for Atlanta’s World Series championship club in 2021.

Chavez has had to settle for minor league deals in each of the last three years, though in both 2022 and 2023, the Cubs and Braves quickly selected Chavez’s contract to the major league roster right at the start of the season.  Considering how Chavez is coming off a significant injury, he might have to sign another minors deal again, but with perhaps an unofficial handshake agreement in place to immediately make him part of the Opening Day roster.

A reunion with the Braves can’t be ruled out, given that Atlanta has acquired and re-acquired Chavez four different times in the last three years.  Chavez and his 90.8 mph fastball may not be an exact fit within the bullpen given how Atlanta has prioritized adding high-velocity arms this offseason, yet Chavez has still been able to get results, to say nothing off his off-field contributions as a clubhouse leader.  Perhaps already acting as something of a player/coach within the relief corps, it sets Chavez up well for his post-playing ambitions of a coaching career.

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