At this point in time, it should be clear that the Yankees need to improve their bullpen. During the playoffs, it became quite apparent that manager Aaron Boone only trusts Chad Green, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman in high-leverage situations, and that’s not going to cut it.
Of course, in a world in which there are no payroll and luxury tax implications, the Bombers could make a run at Liam Hendriks, Kirby Yates, or Brad Hand to shore up their bullpen. In fact, they could probably afford Hand and another low-cost arm or two if they wanted.
If they choose to dive into the bargain bin to find relief reinforcements, then 30-year-old left-hander Andrew Chafin could be an interesting option. Chafin is a solid, experienced reliever with a career 3.67 ERA, a 3.23 FIP, and 3.60 SIERA. He shouldn’t be too expensive and is effective against lefties and righties:
Against left-handed hitters (career): .230/.306/.311, .275 wOBA
Against right-handed hitters (career): .245/.333/.365, .302 wOBA
Chafin would provide a third lefty option out of the bullpen and could be of great use for Boone. Again, the Yankees can’t get away with only three reliable relievers, and adding Chafin on the cheap would be ideal, even if he doesn’t have the dominant profile of Green, Britton or Chapman.
Chafin’s seven-year body of work speaks louder than some weird 2020 stats. In his seven-year MLB tenure, the southpaw has a 9.54 K/9 and a 3.87 BB/9. He’ll issue a walk or two here or there, but the strikeout rate is very encouraging. Chafin throws a four-seam fastball and a sinker, but his slider has been proven to consistently miss bats (52 percent whiff rate in 2020, 54.2 percent in 2019).
The blemish on Chafin is that during his 15 games in 2020, he finished an ugly 6.52 ERA, 10.2 H/9, and a 1.66 WHIP. While it is true that his season wasn’t particularly impressive from an ERA standpoint, he did have a 4.74 FIP, a 3.85 xFIP, and a 3.79 SIERA. Chafin was much better than his 2020 ERA suggests, and even then, I’m more inclined to trust his overall body of work of seven years than 9 2⁄3 innings in a weird, short season. From 2017 to 2019, Chafin had an ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all lower than four.
Chafin dealt with a sprained finger that cost him a month of action. When he returned, he only allowed an earned run in 3 1⁄3 innings, with a walk and three punchouts.
The truth behind Chafin’s ugly 2020 ERA is that he had some bad luck in some unfortunate categories. However, his respective career numbers shine a brighter light:
Andrew Chafin, 2020 vs. career
Expect some positive regression for Chafin over a much larger sample size in 2021 and beyond. Also encouraging was the career-low 86.7 mph average exit velocity he showed this season.
Maybe, just maybe, the 6.52 ERA and the uncertain financial landscape lower Chafin’s price tag a little bit in free agency, in which case I think the Yankees should definitely pounce. He may not be flashy, but he doesn’t have to be. He just has to get outs in a bullpen that needs reliability and consistency.