Chasing Chavez: the hunt for left-handed power

Norm Hall

The departure of Matt Davidson appears to have increased the impetus for the Diamondbacks to re-sign Eric Chavez. What's happening on that front?

"I'm hopeful, by the end of the week, we'll at least know, one way or the other, and I'm hoping it'll be him as a D-back."- Kevin Towers

The D-backs still wait to hear back from Eric Chavez, but both sides appear interested in getting a deal done or moving on, with indications being that we may hear Chavez's decision in the next few days. It doesn't appear he is short of suitors, Jon Heyman reporting that at least six other teams are apparently also interested in his services: the Rangers, Rays, Pirates, Braves, Yanks and Nationals [though after this morning's "mis-interpretation," trust Heyman as you wish!] His agent said this year was "no different" to previous ones: "He wants to play, and he wants to be part of a winner. He does not have his heart set on one team or one league. His mind is wide open."

For us, Chavez would fill two roles. Firstly, he'd provide a back-up option for Martin Prado at third-base. Currently, our alternate would be Cliff Pennington, who has a grand total of seventeen professional appearances there, though is probably a good enough defender, not be a complete embarrassment at the position. In case you're wondering, neither Chris Owings nor Didi Gregorius possess any pro third-base experience at all, while Mark Trumbo has 65 innings there, and almost as many errors (4) as putouts or assists (5 each). Chavez could also fill in for Paul Goldschmidt at first, though if that's more than about once a month, we would appear to have a problem.

Eric would also give the team a left-handed power bat. Last season, Chavez's OPS against RHP was .827, compared to .700 against lefties, which isn't too far off his career splits for the same situation (.867 vs. .689). Despite Chavez's positive contribution when healthy, of an .810 OPS, our left-handed hitters struggled badly last season overall. The problems of Jason Kubel and Miguel Montero were most obvious, along with Adam Eaton and Didi Gregorius. All told, the Diamondbacks' .672 OPS from that side of the plate, put them 12th of 15 in the National League, a sharp drop from 2012's fifth-place.

The obvious downside to Chavez is his inherent fragility. He had two spells on the disabled list last season, totaling about a quarter of the season: first, from May 31st to June 28th due to a strained oblique, and then from August 11th through the 26th, with a left knee strain. That's about par for the course: since the end of 2006, Chavez has averaged only 57 appearances per year, and less than 200 PAs, though some of that is the result of him becoming a bench player, later in his career. He turned 36 earlier this month, and it would be foolish to expect Eric to fill any kind of everyday role, but as long as we stock up on bubble-wrap for between starts, we might be okay.

Making matters trickier, there are not too many alternatives left out there, either. According to MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Tracker, the only unsigned left-handed bats capable of playing third, apart from Chavez, are Munenori Kawasaki, who has one career home-run, and another former Diamondback, Chad Tracy, who put up a .568 OPS with the Natiionals in 136 PAs last season. While your bench is normally an area you can fill without much concern, the holes we have, combined with Chavez's apparently rare skill-set, seem to make his return a greater priority than usual. If it doesn't happen, I wouldn't be surprised to see Towers trade to fill the gap, it's that much of an issue.

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