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Braves acquire Jesse Chavez and cash considerations from Cubs for Sean Newcomb

Chavez, a great surprise for the 2021 team, returns to the Braves in exchange for the recently-DFAed Newcomb

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Never a dull moment with this team, I’ll tell you what:

Anyone who watched the 2021 campaign should have at least some familiarity with Chavez, a 38-year-old right-hander who started last season at Triple-A Gwinnett but was called up to Atlanta in late June. Chavez settled in quite nicely into his relief role after that, posting 1.0 fWAR in 30 games, including four short-ish starts, spanning 33 23 innings. Chavez’ pitching line was pretty beautiful, featuring a 50 ERA-, 47 FIP-, 87 xFIP-, and an xERA of 3.08 (compared to xFIP of 3.69). He actually led the entire Braves’ relief corps in fWAR from the time he made his first relief appearance (June 30) to the end of the season.

Chavez also made seven appearances, including a “start,” in the postseason, not yielding a run and throwing together a decent 3.96 FIP, albeit with a ghastly 6.47 xFIP over 6 13 innings, along with slightly-negative postseason WPA.

After the season, Chavez became a free agent and signed with the Cubs on a deal that would pay him $750,000 if he made the roster out of Spring Training, which he did. Since then, he’s made three appearances, including two of over two innings, and compiled -0.1 fWAR and a 163/143/114 slash, which is way worse than what he did last year. But, the sample is still tiny, so we’ll see what happens.

The Braves designated Sean Newcomb for assignment on Monday, after he had another problematic outing out of the bullpen. Acquired in the possibly-infamous swap with Andrelton Simmons in November 2015, Newcomb was a generically-effective-if-frustrating-to-watch starter for his first 264 major league innings, compiling 3.0 fWAR and a 96/101/106 line. After a poor start to the 2019 season (7.25 xFIP in three outings, though with an ERA and FIP in the mid-4.00s), the Braves banished him to the bullpen, where he failed to make and sustain notable improvements, or to establish himself. From 2019 through 2021, Newcomb compiled just 0.5 fWAR across 114 13 innings, and his pitching line was 103/102/110, which defies the conventional wisdom that pitchers benefit from moving to the bullpen on a rate basis. Newcomb did not make the playoff roster in 2021, and started 2022 in poor fashion, with -0.1 fWAR and a 183/173/153 line in three appearances spanning five innings.

One wonders whether the Cubs will try to transition Newcomb back into a starter and see if he can at least get back to throwing league average-ish starting innings while walking a ton of guys, since that seems better than his complete non-improvement as a reliever. Whatever happens with him now, though, it’s not the Braves’ problem, and they’ll try to proceed with their title defense with Jesse Chavez back in tow.

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