We’re all waiting for the shoe to drop with respect to the Red Sox trading for bullpen help before 4:00 PM ET today. There have been some exciting whispers about the Red Sox looking at some of the bigger names on the market, most notably of which was Edwin Díaz. That potential deal appears to be out the window at this point, and now those of us who got our hopes up for that caliber of relief weapon is likely going to be underwhelmed.
In completely unrelated news, there was a rumor Tuesday night about who the Red Sox could be targeting. Now, they are almost certainly covering a whole lot of bases and talking with each and every team looking to sell off pieces. This is the one hard report of a possible target, though, and it comes from Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal. McAdam reports that the Red Sox are targeting Andrew Chafin, a left-handed reliever for the Diamondbacks.
Source: ARI LHP Andrew Chafin is a target for the Red Sox in trade talks. Low salary ($1.95 million), controlled through 2020 and modest acquisition cost. Also, the D'backs-Red Sox connection (Hazen, Sawdaye, Porter) makes for familiarity with organization and easier discussions.— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) July 31, 2019
I kind of feel bad that the general tone here is one of disappointment, because it’s not really fair to Chafin. Despite his ERA — we’ll get to that in a second — Chafin is not a bad pitcher. Adding the lefty to the bullpen would not make the bullpen worse and would almost certainly improve it. The southpaw has long been one of the better lefty specialists around the league and over the last couple of years he’s pitched better against righties as well. You still don’t want him facing a run of righties, of course, but if the opponent is going lefty-righty-lefty in an inning you don’t feel terrible about leaving Chafin out for all three batters. That’s particularly important in the more long-term as he is under team control through next year, when the league is expected to strip the ability for pitchers to face just one batter.
This season, the lefty hasn’t been great as he’s tossed 36 1⁄3 innings in 50 appearances — a nod to the fact that he is still, at heart, a specialist. In this time, he’s pitched to a 4.21 ERA, a 3.68 FIP and a 4.08 DRA. He’s striking out a ton of batters with over 11 per nine innings, but command has been an issue. Generally, Chafin has been a ground ball guy over his career but his ground ball rate is down to 43 percent this year, the first season he’s been below 50 percent (per Baseball Prospectus). That has led to some home run issues. If the Red Sox think they can get him to get the ball back on the ground, he could be in line for a lot of improvement.
Ultimately, though, this isn’t the guy that solves the lack of impact in the later innings. If Chafin is a complementary addition along with a bigger name, I think that would be a slam dunk. Chafin is mostly a Josh Taylor replacement. The latter has been solid, but Chafin has a much longer track record to suggest he’s a better option in the short-term. If Chafin — or someone similar — is it, though, the Red Sox are signaling they think they have enough. It signals they believe guys like Nathan Eovaldi and Darwinzon Hernandez are the high-upside additions people are looking for, just ones that come from inside the organization. If that’s what they believe, they better hope they’re right because they would be opening themselves up to major criticism. All of it would be deserved, too.