The Detroit Tigers are in shambles, willing to trade basically everyone in a year that was supposed to mark their return to contention. The Yankees bullpen went from a huge strength to a bit of a question mark in a short amount of a time. If they join the many organizations that are bound to pick the Detroit roster clean, 32-year-old left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin could be a good pickup.
Chafin has been a bit of a journeyman so far in his career — the Tigers are his fourth team. He posted mixed results in his career, with a lot of bad numbers, up until his 2021 season with the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics (he was traded at the deadline). Last year, he put up a 2.39 FIP and a 229 ERA+.
Chafin parlayed that into his current deal with the Tigers, a two-year deal worth $6.5 million per that comes with an opt-out clause at the end of the season. Through 30.2 innings pitched in 2022, he’s posted a 2.21 FIP with 37 strikeouts.
Despite not blowing batters away with velocity, Chafin has been quite successful this season at limiting contact and striking out opponents. His expected batting average against according to Baseball Savant is within the top 5% of the league, and his expected slugging in the top 3%. His expected ERA is 2.29, a bit lower than his actual mark of 2.64.
Chafin does, however, give up more walks than you’d like to see — he’s given up nine in those 30.2 innings pitched.
Chafin doesn’t have much of a platoon split, with left-handed batters hitting .234 against him while righties hit .200. Interestingly, seven of the nine walks he’s given up this season have been against lefties, despite facing more righties overall. He didn’t show that problem last year, so perhaps it’s just an odd quirk. His BABIP against left-handers is higher as well.
The Yankees, of course, have two good left-handed relievers in Wandy Peralta and Lucas Luetge. But they simply need more reliable arms, period, after the loss of Michael King and the struggles of Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loáisiga, and even Clay Holmes — not to mention the starting rotation failing to provide as many innings as they did in their hot start. Chafin could play a middle relief role akin to the one Luetge and Albert Abreu have been in.
One issue worth noting that cropped up this week is that Chafin is unvaccinated, and he was thus unable to play in Toronto. The Yankees acquired Andrew Benintendi despite him still being unvaccinated though, so these isn’t necessarily a road block, particularly if Chafin remains open-minded about potentially getting the shots to make it to the Yankees’ next series north of the border in September (or maybe even October).
While Chafin isn’t considered a relief “ace” like Holmes or the Pirates’ David Bednar, one of the benefits of that would be that it would take fewer or less heralded prospects to acquire him. While it would certainly take more than what Oakland gave up to acquire him from the Cubs last year, it would be a trade that would allow the Yankees to keep their top-rated prospects for the likes of a Luis Castillo trade, if they were to go that route.
Overall, Chafin would mostly make sense as a bullpen depth piece who could still provide quality innings. It would help return the bullpen to its previous status, with quality and trustworthy performances all the way down. It may not be as sexy a pickup as some fans might want, but as last year’s deal for Holmes showed, sometimes those are the ones that work out the best.