Chavez more than just a warm body

Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – If you thought Frank Wren screwed up when he traded closer Rafael Soriano to Tampa Bay for reliever Jesse Chavez at the December Winter Meetings, well, you weren’t alone.

Plenty of critics thought the Braves GM should’ve waited a bit, rather than taking the best offer he got before leaving the meetings in Indianapolis. The numbing December weather in downtown Indy can make a man do desperate things, right?

Wren defended the deal at that time and said Chavez was far more than the any-warm-body some were portraying. In fact, Wren said, the Braves and their scouts really liked Chavez and believed he could play a big role in their revamped bullpen.

Well, guess what? It’s only the first week of camp, but anyone who’s watched Chavez would jhave to agree that Wren wasn’t full of it. This 26-year-old right-hander can really pitch, and it’s easy to see why the Braves expect him to be a cog in an upgraded bullpen.

“That Chavez — whew – he is good,” new closer Billy Wagner said. “Just from playing catch and seeing his stuff. I’ve never seen him pitch, but Bobby [Cox] told me, ‘Man, this guy’s the real deal.’ And watching him and being in the weight room and seeing how he carries himself – that’s important.

“He knows he’s got a chance to make this bullpen. He knows he’s got a chance to be a part of something, and he’s working hard. And you see that with a lot of these young guys here.”

As a Pittsburgh rookie, Chavez had a 4.01 ERA in a team-high 73 appearances in 2009, with 63 strikeouts and 31 walks in 67-1/3 innings. He was too wild too often, and left some balls up for big home runs. But he was a workhorse and he had nasty stuff. The potential was there.

The Pirates traded him in November for Rays second baseman Akinoria Iwamura when Tampa Bay was looking to dump a few vowels … err, looking to dump Iwamura’s salary.

Chavez has an explosive 94-96 mph fastball, but it’s his changeup that’s surprised Cox early in camp. “I remember the time he pitched against us in Pittsburgh, how hard he threw,” Cox said. “But I didn’t know he had that kind of changeup.”

As for Chavez, the Southern California native said he’s felt at ease in Braves camp. He sounds as if he’s thrilled to be here and happy the trade went down, now that he’s gotten to know the guys he’ll be playing for and with, and the pitchers he’ll be hanging out with down in the bullpen for the next nine months.

“I’ve just been going with it; I’ve been on Cloud 9,” he said. “The last time I got traded [from Pittsburgh to Texas in July 2006] was during the season, so I got to meet the new teammates right away. It took a couple of months [to meet his new teammates], but it’s been a blast. I get along with everybody. They treat you like family here.”

When told how impressed everyone has been by his stuff, Chavez seemed surprised. He said he didn’t do anything special this winter or so far in camp.

“I just grab it and throw it,” he said, smiling. “If [the ball] moves, it moves. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Then I’ll make the adjustment when the time comes. But the ball’s been coming out real well.

“To tell you the truth, I thought I was a little behind because of all the rain we got in Southern California, kind of pushed all my throwing back. But other than that, the ball’s coming out fine and I’m happy with the way it’s going.”

And what does he think of the bullpen arms the Braves have?

“Just awe,” he said, “at just how many, starting from the back end, from Billy [Wagner] to Takashi [Saito] to [Peter] Moylan to [Eric] O’Flaherty to all us down below, it’s impressive. I just can’t wait to get going.”

63 comments Add your comment

Brinson

February 24th, 2010
7:12 pm

If he pans out, is a future set-up man for us DOB?

Earl

February 24th, 2010
7:32 pm

Does anyone besides me feel an extra bit of excitement for the upcoming year? I really have a good feeling with this team getting back to Pitching. It is looking to me like the Starting rotation and the Bullpen may be the best in the league. Sound familiar?

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
7:34 pm

man I can hardly contain myself, got my tix today for opening day, and my 2010 cap, Got a Cox home red jersey on the way. PUMPED

BravesFanChris25

February 24th, 2010
7:35 pm

I was apart of the minority when that trade went down that was actually happy about it. When Chavez pitched against Braves last year, I said to myself “Damn, I wish he was a Brave.” and now low and behold, he is one now. I think he could very well work out well as a bullpen arm this year.

Jamia

February 24th, 2010
7:45 pm

Who cares about the Braves any more? Too many years of losing have turned me off.

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
7:46 pm

most wins in mlb since 91. not sure what you speak of.

Poopy Pants

February 24th, 2010
8:04 pm

Summer of 91,

I’m not sure if that is true or not, but it definitely isn’t true since 2001. Who gives a damn what happened almost 2 decades ago. Pretty soon 1991 will be able to buy alcohol and live in a van down by the river. Begging for change in the streets because it can’t find a job in this economy. Then his wife leaves him for an investment banker. True story. Heard it from this guy once.

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
8:11 pm

not sure if it’s true either but I think it is, since 01 I’d say were top 5 in the game, maybe top 8, but I get you’re point, but MY point was to say “too many years of losing” is ridiculous, we were under .500 one time. If you don’t like the Braves that’s cool but I dig em.

bravofan

February 24th, 2010
8:14 pm

join the group i made on facebook thank you bobby cox for all you have done!! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/group.php?gid=327514901020&ref=nf

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
8:14 pm

under .500 twice I think since 91 or 01 or 06 or whatever….go Bravos, if you don’t like em , eat it.

MattyRoss

February 24th, 2010
8:26 pm

Jamia, you know what I do when I’m not interested in something? I specifically seek out web content devoted exclusively to that thing. I find it rewarding. Also, I’m a huge jackass.

hal

February 24th, 2010
8:31 pm

if ppl want to talk abpout losing just how succesfull were trhe putilefils before two years agop maybe ask there fans how the 90’s were for them lol

Eric from MO

February 24th, 2010
8:34 pm

Two losing seasons and your turned off…can we say ADD???

Delbert D.

February 24th, 2010
8:36 pm

You gotta like a guy named Jesse. So what if he’s a bit wild. 95 mph heat occasionally landing in the buttocks area keeps ‘em jumpy.

Greg

February 24th, 2010
8:56 pm

Such baloney. The kind of stuff we all want to hear this time of year. Even me. But for Soriano? You’ve got to be kidding? Stupid move by Wren.

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
9:01 pm

you have to consider the dinero Greg, not just player for player- dinero is just part of it now….all things considered, good move, we did’nt expect Sori to accept arb, he did, so we got the equivalent of a 1st round pick, there’s no disputing that I don’t think.

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
9:05 pm

and I think we got more than a first round pick if you consider this dude will be in our pen this year.

KingfishStevens

February 24th, 2010
9:26 pm

Chavez has already shown more emotion than Soriano ever did. I’m glad the Braves added him.Jamia and Poopy Pants, you need to get a room.

GetwhatUpayfor

February 24th, 2010
9:30 pm

The kid will do just fine..Hawks just beat Min 98 to 92.

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
9:33 pm

nice W. I really need one of those ATL tank tops, if only I had nicer guns.

CLIFF

February 24th, 2010
9:34 pm

The pitching should be fine.It is the offense or there lack of that will make or break the Braves this season.Hopefully Jason Heyward is ready to fulfill his promise and add a spark to the least most productive outfield in the majors. And hopefully the injury bug will stay away.

emptyseats

February 24th, 2010
9:35 pm

Enter your comments here

summer of 91

February 24th, 2010
9:40 pm

yea we really need a big bat but we’ll compete, it just sux when we play the phillies and you know one of those dudes will hit a three run bomb, usually it’s 2-1 atl in the 6th and ryan howard just flicks one over the left field fence. Someone in that Phils lineup will hit a bomb almost every single night

David O'Brien

February 24th, 2010
9:52 pm

Brinson, he certainly could be a setup man in the future. Has the stuff.

Lance Link, Secret Chimp

February 24th, 2010
10:04 pm

DOB: Any surprises you forsee as far as who rounds out our bench? Any luck finding the new Johnny Cash release?

richbrave

February 24th, 2010
10:18 pm

McLOUTH, PRADO, JONES, GLAUS, McCANN, HEYWARD?, ESCOBAR, DIAZ
CONRAD?, CABRERA, HINSKE, INFANTE, ROSS
HUDSON, HANSON, JURJENS, LOWE, KAWAKAMI
CHAVEZ?, MEDLIN, REYES?, O’FLAHERTY, MOYLAN, SAITO, WAGNER

I think we look stronger going into ST this year than last. We still have lots of ? marks, but we’re not spending 115 million either. I do think the extra dough would eliminate a lot of them. WREN has done a good job making modest improvement with very limited resources however.

David O'Brien

February 24th, 2010
10:18 pm

Greg, no one is suggesting that a Soriano-for-Chavez trade under normal circumstances, if the Braves didn’t have another closer, would be a good trade. But they did have another closer by then, because they already signed both Wagner and Saito.

You could certainly make a strong case that the Braves should have either waited to sign those guys after moving Soriano, or that they misread the market and shouldn’t have offered arbitration to Soriano if they weren’t prepared to keep him.

But the fact is, they had already signed Wagner and Saito. So unless you think they should have risked being stuck with Soriano and a $7 million or more arb salary, saddling the Braves with about $20 million potentially going to three relievers (Soriano, Wagner and Saito, who’ll probably make $3 mill or more with incentives), then they needed to trade him for Chavez or someone else.

Most writers, officials with other teams, and scouts I talked to at the Winter Meetings didn’t think the Braves would get anyone to take on Soriano’s salary AND give up any player of value in a trade. A lot of people didn’t even think they’d get another team to take on the arbitration salary commitment for Soriano, given his checkered health in the past four seasons.

They ended up not paying any of Soriano’s salary and getting a reliever who’s got some talent. If the Braves hadn’t offered Soriano arbitration, they’d have gotten nothing in return when he walked. And they didn’t want to pay him over $7 mill to be their closer, that was clear. They’d had him as their closer and didn’t want to pay him that much to be their full-time closer again.

So what would you have done with him? Not offered him arb? Offered him arb?

I think some people forget that Soriano was a free agent, and that he had accepted the Braves’ arb offer. The Braves had very little leverage, if they had any at all, when they tried to trade him after he took their arb offer.

MrKnowItAll

February 24th, 2010
10:24 pm

It has to stand to reason that if that idiot Cox likes a player or says he is going to be great then mark my words he will not be worth a hoot and will just pan out. Cox would not know really true talent if it kicked him in the rear end! I am just glad that after one more year the Bravos will finally have someone else besides Cox as their manager. Even if it is an empty paper bag!

Kurdt Kobain

February 24th, 2010
10:49 pm

Cox doesn’t know talent? I’m sorry, but didn’t he draft Chipper Jones? He has faults, like his bullpen management, but I don’t think talent scouting is one of them.

joesizzle

February 24th, 2010
11:14 pm

i think when raffy’s velocity is high and he is hitting his spots, he is absolutely unstoppable. when he’s not hitting his spots and his velocity is down, it’s like home run derby out there. i dont like him in a playoff game on the line, so i wouldn’t want to pay him 7mil either.

would they have gotten a good draft pick had he signed elsewhere as a free agent? type a or b or whatever those rules are…i guess that would factor into my decision to offer him arb, so that you’re weighing draft pick vs. chavez (or some other trade)

ET

February 25th, 2010
12:01 am

The trade that brought Chavez here was a good move. We didn’t want Soriano for 7-8 million a year. We got a servicable relief guy that throws 94-96 mph & could end up as a set up man or possible closer in the future. WE have 40 year olds at the back of the bull pen. These young guys that Wren has brought in are insurance in case the old guys fall apart. Not Bad!!

cali braves

February 25th, 2010
12:59 am

What is it with all you Cox hater’s . We would have been lucky to make the playoffs half as many times as we did in the cox era with another manager. His only weakness is handling pitchers . Players love to play for him , players want to play in atl because of him . Ten years from now you Haters are gonna wish he was still here. There isn’t a manager in baseball who could have done what he did in the 90’s .

Smiling Jack

February 25th, 2010
2:23 am

Bobby Cox, as a man and as a baseball manager, stands head and shoulders above any of the haters and critics. He has had more success in his chosen field than any of his detractors have had in theirs. Such negative, hateful people seem bitter, small and insignificant. Their rantings are anything but amusing…simply pathetic. Go Braves!

UGA75

February 25th, 2010
4:04 am

Wow Smilin Jack, you took the words out of my keyboard!

I’ve met Bobby Cox several times always away from the Ballpark. He has never been anything but a gentleman to the people bothering him. Bobby Cox is defined by the word Class, with integrity, dignity, and humility following closely behind. He isn’t perfect, he has made mistakes, but over the course of his career he has clearly made fewer of them than the managers he has competed against. Bobby has given Braves fans the opportunity to see managing greatness, and a Hall of Fame career. He is a great manager, a great motivator, and a great human being, other than that he is pretty much average.

toga party

February 25th, 2010
8:12 am

“Just awe,” he said, “at just how many, starting from the back end, from Billy [Wagner] to Takashi [Saito] to [Peter] Moylan to [Eric] O’Flaherty to all us down below, it’s impressive. I just can’t wait to get going.”

Nice move by Chavez there, effectively ranking himself lower than some of his established teammates. Good way to endear yourself to the rest of the guys in the trenches by showing humility and working hard.

dpelfrey

February 25th, 2010
8:33 am

The fact we got anything for Soriano, much less someone with a real potential to contribute to the team this year, was great.

The other option was simply to not offer arb and get nothing in return. Either way, Soriano was gone.

And I’ve posted this elsewhere, but Soriano’s stats last year were very misleading. He had a 2.18 ERA in non-save situations and a 3.93 ERA in save situations. You don’t pay $8 million to a guy like that, unless you’re the Yankees. The same goes for Gonzo (1.67 ERA in non-save and 3.45 in save situations).

Ken

February 25th, 2010
8:36 am

Hey, Dave, can’t find an email address for you, so here’s an off-topic question: Why haven’t the Braves pursued Hank Blalock? He seems like an ideal fit, is he asking for too much money? Too long a term? Is he injured and GMs know this?

dpelfrey

February 25th, 2010
8:47 am

The only thing that concerns me about Chavez is his propensity to give up extra-base hits. Last year, out of the 69 hits allowed, 27 of those were for extra-bases (14 doubles, 2 triples, 11 homeruns).

By contrast, last year Moylan only gave up 16 extra-base hits out of 65 hits allowed (no homeruns) and O’Flahery only gave up 6 out of 52.

That’s one thing I look for in a reliever. They’re not going to be perfect, so when they give up hits, I’d rather them be singles so the other teams aren’t putting up big innings.

Of course, if Chavez uses that changeup more, that should help keep hitters honest so they’re not sitting on fastballs and hanging sliders up in the zone.

Clay

February 25th, 2010
8:51 am

Yeah, Bobby is head and shoulders above me in every was, especially in nose-picking and wife-slapping …

Big Earl

February 25th, 2010
8:59 am

dpelfrey, great stats about Soriano and Gonzo! Didn’t realize that. Keep em comin.

Joe Fan

February 25th, 2010
9:16 am

I for one believe Bobby has stayed a couple of years longer than he should have as Braves manager but I also remember he was the Braves GM for several years and built the foundation for the Braves of the 90s. Give him credit for many good years and much of the Braves success. It is time for him to move along but the Braves were better for him being a part of the organization.

Clay

February 25th, 2010
9:24 am

Yep, I, too, have always thought Bobby was a much better talent evaluator than game manager.

Knuckle Sandwich

February 25th, 2010
9:32 am

MrKnowItAll = Douchebag. Go pull for the Mets or something, idiot.

collegeballfan

February 25th, 2010
9:33 am

richbrave

February 25th, 2010
9:56 am

Knuckle Sandwich

February 25th, 2010
9:32 am
MrKnowItAll = Douchebag. Go pull for the Mets or something, idiot.

Who’s to say he isn’t a METS fan in disguise. A rose by any other name…… [stinks]…… as sweet.

LivinInAL

February 25th, 2010
10:05 am

DOB- I think you mentioned earllier that you anticipated Hudson would be the opening day starter. Why do you project him over Lowe? Just curious.

Batcork

February 25th, 2010
10:17 am

DOB, great work as always. The bullpen depth is definitely impressive in the middle innings thru set-up. The Braves will again be offensively challenged and strong on the mound, so they will end up in many close late innings games. When Wagner pitches 3 straight nights or even 3 out of 4, he’s going to need a night off. Who do you see being Closer B when that happens and it’s another close game with the Braves leading in the 9th? Say what you will about the Gonzo/Soriano tandem, it was a nice luxury to have Closer A1 and Closer A2 last year.

Braves73

February 25th, 2010
10:54 am

It’s funny how every year we hear spring training talk about “how many arms” we have in our bullpen, then Bobby will somehow find a new version of Jeff Bennett. It happens every year…so my question is this, is Jesse Chavez this years version of good old JB? Or shall we go back to the beginning, to Jim Clancy. The list could go on and on and on…

Lewis

February 25th, 2010
11:04 am

DOB, I’ve got a question that has been bothering me for a while…..and it relates directly to Soriano situation and Arbitration. What i have been wondering is that when it comes to Arbitration, and you have a situation like Sorianos who(and correct me if i’m wrong here) but i thought that he had received a 2 year $9 million dollar contract with the Braves two years ago, but he was being paid $3 million the first year, and $6 million the second year……so, when it comes time for his arbitration case, do they START/WORK OFF OF the “Average Salary he was being paid for those years”, or do they go with the “last years salary” that he made as a reference point?!?!?! I always wondered about this, because everyone was always saying that he had a $6 million dollar salary, yet, it was really only a $4.5 million salary, but the Braves had pushed back money to (i guess) help them with yearly payroll purposes. SO, i was just wondering how that works…and if they do go off of his “last years salary”, then why would the Braves push back his salary like that knowing that it could make his arbitration case that much stronger for Soriano as they dollar amounts would obviously be much higher???? And i understand they have fiscal restraints and all, but if that is indeed the way that arb works, then it surely seems they would take that in to consideration not only with Soriano, but any possible upcoming free agents. Not a big deal, but was just wondering if you could help clarify this up for me…..thanks!!

helopilot

February 25th, 2010
11:05 am

“if ppl want to talk abpout losing just how succesfull were trhe putilefils before two years agop maybe ask there fans how the 90’s were for them lol”

Didn’t your mother ever tell you about typing with food in your mouth? :)

VP

February 25th, 2010
11:15 am

ESPN’s Baseball Tonight will do the show from Dark Star at 3:30 ET.

Wes

February 25th, 2010
11:30 am

I love the moves that Wren made this offseason to upgrade the bullpen. We have more depth than we have had in a long time. Bobby runs his pitchers to death but if you notice its only a certain few every year. Its because those few are the ones that throw strikes and get people out. This year, I believe, we have enough depth to give guys the days off when they need it. On our offensive side I like having Melky or Diaz on the bench to come in and pinch hit as well as having Omar and Hinske to do the same. Last year we had to turn to ole Norton and we all know how that went. Have faith Braves fans this will end up being a great season for us. GO BRAVES!!!!

dap01

February 25th, 2010
11:40 am

Cox should not always use the same combo in games. That leads to overworking of your best relievers.

That is why we always used a worn out reliever if we had a winning streak over 2 games.

Come on Cox, don’t settle by using the same combo EVERY game that you have a lead. Think.

Puma

February 25th, 2010
11:55 am

I got to think that the bullpen will have a much better atmosphere this year vs. last couple years. Clearly, Wagner will be the leader and he seems to be a good one at that (vs Soriano or Gonzalez, although Gonzalez always seemed like a nice guy). No one in the bullpen can even question the fact that he is the most established guy down there. I think it will go a long way for guys to know exactly what their roles are and doing their parts, not being worried about doing more than necessary. I think the bullpen will be this years strength, not that it was horrible last year, but there were a few 1 run games lost by both Mr. Soriano and Mr Gonzalez.

And I think Bobby should make D. Lowe the opening day starter, just to make some type of amends. Just my two cents.

Brad in Jasper

February 25th, 2010
12:23 pm

DOB, after reading about Chavez, you’ve got me singing “It never rains in Southern California”

Ted M

February 25th, 2010
12:42 pm

Cow drafted Chipper by default…he wanted Todd Van Popple but TVP said he would NOT sign with the Braves under any circumstances.

gcs

February 25th, 2010
12:58 pm

too bad he’ll be gone in a year or two…

.

Mark Biles

February 25th, 2010
1:29 pm

These clowns on the blog who say the Braves haven’t been winners since the 90s should’ve lived through the 60s and 70s as a Braves fan when you were glad to see them finish 5th in the NL West.

Jared

February 25th, 2010
4:12 pm

DOB, thank you for explaining Soriano’s arb situation to some of the people who refuse to look at context when it comes to evaluating front office moves. Unfortunately, most of my fellow Braves fans only have the ability to look at the bottom line and then post crap like “Wren is an idiot.”

Get a clue folks. Then come out to the Ted and cheer on the Braves.

old brave, retired

February 25th, 2010
6:40 pm

The Bravos look terrific this year. Can’t wait until 2 or 3 years when the 3 phenoms (young stud pitchers) and our new shortstop join the big leagues. Our big club looks good, our minors have talent, great time to be a Braves fan (as I have since 1966). Go Frank Wren

Cannonball

February 25th, 2010
8:10 pm

Jamia feel sorry for you. Live and die with them. I’m with old brave, retired. Spring is here.

Bobby Cox

February 25th, 2010
10:48 pm

Gee, Skip. They all look good in spring training. Hell, even Dan Kolb, Chris Reitsma and Greg Norton looked good. Man, I miss those guys.

[...] the Heyward hype it’s easy to forget about the other aspects of the team. With Jesse Chavezpossibly emerging and Scott Proctor on track to be ready by April, the Braves patchwork bullpen just might come [...]

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