Following the disappointing conclusion of the 2018 season, an emotional Jesse Chavez claimed he would rather retire than pitch for another team. But when the Rangers offered him a two-year deal, one more than the Cubs were willing to go, he ended up back in Arlington. The 38-year-old reliever may finally get the chance to make good on his statement, however, as the Cubs have added him to the 40-man roster.
Chavez signed a minor league contract with Chicago shortly after the lockout ended and he’ll now serve as an elder statesman in a bullpen that may end up featuring quite a bit of youth. He’s also got a great reputation among Cubs fans after going 2-1 with four saves and a 1.15 ERA over 32 relief appearances in the second half of that 2018 season. What fans loved most was that he walked so few batters, a welcome reprieve from the performances of far too many of his fellow relievers.
Though he had a rough go of it during those two seasons in Texas, Chavez bounced back last year and was part of the Braves’ World Series title. He went 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 30 games and didn’t allow a home run in 33.2 innings. What’s more, he also produced a career-best 27.1% strikeout rate due to the effectiveness of the cutter/sinker combo that made up nearly 80% of his pitches.
Not a hard thrower, Chavez simply knows how to pitch and he locates well with a relatively limited repertoire that he’s honed over the years. His inclusion in the Opening Day bullpen clears things up just a little bit, though David Ross has two extra spots to play with for the first few weeks and hasn’t finalized those just yet.
Given the club’s oft-stated need for hard throwers, you’d think they’d be looking to add some of their relief prospects rather than going with other veterans who make up for low ceilings with grit and guile. Ethan Roberts sits mid-90s with the fastball and his slider has gotten the Pitching Ninja treatment this spring, so look for him to earn a spot when the rosters are announced.