It was not long ago that Jhoulys Chacin was one of the more effective starters in the National League. The Venezuelan-born righty made his big league debut at age 21 with the Colorado Rockies in 2009, and became a regular in the rotation in 2010. From 2010-2013, Chacin pitched in 104 games (97 starts) while posting a solid 3.61 ERA and a 3.93 FIP in 597.2 innings. He accrued 8.9 fWAR and 14 rWAR over this period while holding opponents to a solid 48.7% ground ball rate and 6.9 K/9.
Unfortunately, injuries have also take their toll on the hurler's career. He was limited to just 14 starts in 2012 due to a pectoral injury. Chacin began experiencing shoulder issues in early 2014 that persisted throughout the season until he was shut down in early July. He posted a miserable 5.40 ERA with a plummeting strikeout and ground ball rate in just 63.1 innings before hitting the DL for good.
The Rockies agreed to a one year, $5.5 mil deal to avoid arbitration with Chacin prior to the 2015 season, but wound up releasing in a surprising move during Spring Training (and saving themselves over $4 mil). He signed a minor league deal with Cleveland and posted a 3.21 ERA in seven starts in AAA before opting out and signing with the Diamondbacks. After putting together a 3.22 ERA and 6.5 K/9 in 13 starts in AAA Reno, Chacin finally got the call to the majors. He ended his season by pitching 26.2 innings for Arizona, allowing 10 earned runs (four home runs) while striking out 21 and walking 10.
Though MLB Trade Rumors projected Chacin to earn a relatively minor $1.8 mil salary in his final season of arbitration eligibility, that apparently proved to be too much for Arizona to be comfortable with and they outrighted the soon-to-be 28 year old shortly after the World Series ended. Chacin elected free agency hits the open market after pitching a full season total of 155.2 innings and should be at full health for 2016.
Chacin could be a terrific fit for the Brewers on the free agent market this offseason. He's still relatively young and has a track record of providing high quality innings in the middle of the starting rotation, even while throwing his home games in the pitching hell that is Coors Field. He's never been reliant on high fastball velocity, though as he's lost a few MPH over the years (down to 88.6 MPH last season), he's reduced his fastball usage in favor his cutter and slider. Chacin saw a nice jump back up in his ground ball rate, from 42.9% in 2014 to 49.7% in 2015 across both the major and minor leagues. His walk rate was somewhat high, but he's never exactly been a "control artist" and his strikeout rate encouragingly rebounded closer to his career norms.
Jhoulys Chacin would be an extremely low-risk type pitcher to bring in on a one year deal at his projected arbitration salary, and he could perhaps even be had on a minor league contract. If Chacin can continue to stay healthy and exhibit the solid form that he has showed earlier in his career and began to again last season, he would be an in-demand commodity to have control of at the trading deadline. The Brewers can offer him a legitimate opportunity to compete for their Opening Day starting rotation and to continue rehabbing his value before possibly hitting the open market again as a free agent after 2016. If he struggles, then the club can just as easily cut ties with him and suffer only a small financial loss.
When a club is rebuilding like the Brewers are, it's still important to try and take some calculated risks on the free agent market. Of course, the Cubs' signing and subsequent trade of pitcher Scott Feldman (sent along with Steve Cleavenger) to Baltimore that landed Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop stands at the perfect (and much cited) example of this kind of deal. While Brewers' fans shouldn't be expecting to get their future ace in return for Jhoulys Chacin, he'd likely be able to fetch a decent prospect or two if he proves he can still perform at the MLB level, and that possibility makes him a risk worth taking.