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What Will Jesse Chavez Bring to the Cubs?

The Chicago Cubs made a trade on Thursday night.

The Cubs’ late-night acquisition of Jesse Chavez may have come out of nowhere, but it should be far from surprising. If the past seven years have taught us anything it’s that the Cubs are going to be active in July. A periphery move such as this – much more about depth and versatility than anything – might not get the blood pumping, but it’s a solid indication that the front office is going to turn over every stone in order to finalize their roster for the playoffs.

Getting acquainted with Jesse

Chavez is a 34-year-old journeyman with the ability to start and pitch out of the bullpen. While he’ll unquestionably nestle into the ‘pen his versatility should neither be forgotten nor understated. With Eddie Butler still on the DL and Mike Montgomery entrenched in the rotation, they lack a true swingman, and Chavez should fulfill that role capably.

In 56.1 innings with the Rangers Chavez pitched effectively. A 3.51 ERA, above average ground ball percentage (45%) and a terrific 5.1 BB% paint that picture. While he’s given up too many home runs (10) his overall numbers suggest he’ll augment an already solid bullpen. And when you consider that his numbers on the road this season have been fantastic (1.91 ERA, with only three home runs, surrendered in 28.1 innings) he becomes an even more appealing get for the Cubs.

As for stuff, Chavez has actually seen an uptick in his fastball velocity this year (92.9 mph, per Fangraphs). His main secondary pitches are a cutter and slider, though you’ll occasionally see him flash a change-up. For a Cubs team that loves to throw the fastball, he should fit right in, and don’t be surprised if his usage of the pitch (40.5% in Texas) increases as the summer wears on.

Minimal risk involved

The Cubs gave up Tyler Thomas, a 22-year-old left-handed pitcher for single-A South Bend. Thomas is having a fantastic season, pitching to the tune of a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts with a terrific K/BB ratio. While his stock may be rising this season he 1) won’t contribute at the big league level for several years yet and 2) was not in the Cubs’ long-term plans. Thomas could eventually carve out a nice career in the bigs, but he was an appropriate piece for the Cubs to give up in order to acquire Chavez. For the Rangers – who are clearly in the midst of what might be a long rebuild – they successfully flipped a veteran they signed on the cheap for an intriguing young arm. This trade might fly under-the-radar but the immediate analysis suggests it’s a win-win.

As for that cheap contract, Chavez is making $1.5 million this year before hitting free agency. He is neither a long-term asset nor will his cost impact any further moves the Cubs might make.

Cubs aren’t finished yet

It’s an expected outcome that the Cubs trade for another bullpen piece, most likely a high-leverage arm with closing experience. Zach Britton headlines the list of targets for the Cubs, and with the Orioles open for business I doubt it’ll take until the deadline for him to be moved. Look for the Cubs to pursue him aggressively.

We know this roster is good. We know the front office tirelessly examines ways to get better. And we know the trade deadline is one of the most exciting times of the season. The next week and a half should provide plenty of entertainment.

Follow Austin on Twitter: @TLS_Austin –Feature Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune 


Austin is the Lead Cubs Writer for The Loop Sports. He's a lifelong baseball junkie (due to his father) and as a former college pitcher has a particular affinity for the art of pitching. Austin loves to commute in Chicago on his bicycle, and enjoys camping and canoeing as often as possible. He attained his master's degree in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University Chicago in 2014.

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