Being named as a team’s Opening Day starting pitcher is considered to be an honor and a privilege for most Major League hurlers, but in recent years, the assignment has turned into a curse for the Milwaukee Brewers. The latest victim is 2019’s opener Jhoulys Chacin, who had been enduring perhaps the worst season of his career before succumbing to a lat injury in his latest start on July 24th. As it turns out, Chacin won’t get the chance to return from that injury, as he has been designated for assignment by the club during a shuffling of the roster this afternoon:
INF/OF Cory Spangenberg has been selected from Triple-A San Antonio. OF Ben Gamel optioned there. RHP Jhoulys Chacín designated for assignment. pic.twitter.com/BYISADkjk9— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 24, 2019
Chacin, 31, has to this point, been David Stearns’ most expensive free agent pitching acquisition during his tenure leading the org. He was signed to a two-year deal for a total of $15.5 mil prior to the 2018 season, a deal that many fans scoffed at at the time. But Chacin was tremendous for the club during their run to the NLCS last year, making 35 starts and logging 192.2 innings with a 3.50 ERA. He made the start on short rest for the Brewers in game 163 in Chicago, throwing five shutout innings as the Cream City Nine captured their first division title since 2011.
Unfortunately, Chacin was unable to carry over that success into this season. He was justifiably rewarded with the Opening Day start and was someone that the team was counting on to be an anchor in the starting rotation, but he quickly began fighting with his signature slider. A sudden jump in walks and home runs allowed torpedoed Chacin’s campaign, as he authored a career-worst 5.79 ERA in 19 starts and 88.2 innings. FIP- (128) and DRA- (142) agree that he has been among the worst starters in baseball this year. Chacin last pitched for the Brewers about a month ago but was still considered to be at least a few weeks away from game action. Now instead of returning to the team in September, he’ll collect the remainder of the $6 mil he’s owed this season while sitting on the free agent market. If he does get healthy before the end of the year, there is a chance that some team could sign him for a pro-rated portion of the league minimum.
Chacin’s removal from the 40-man roster creates a spot for Cory Spangenberg, who has been raking all year for the Triple-A San Antonio Missions. Spangenberg was signed to a big league deal last offseason and prior to the return of Mike Moustakas, he was slated to receive regular playing time at second base. But Moose’s presence pushed Spangenberg off the active roster and Cory was later outrighted off the 40-man. He stayed with the org and has hit .309/.378/.498 with 14 homers and 28 stolen bases in 476 plate appearances for the Missions, good for a 112 wRC+ in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Spangenberg has started games at every position except catcher and pitcher while suiting up for San Antonio this year; notably, he has made 16 starts at shortstop, including six this month and two in his final two games for the Missions. He’s been charged with only one error while manning the six. The Brewers have gotten some of the worst production in baseball from their shortstops this year, led by Orlando Arcia, who is down to a .229/.293/.367 slash line overall and has only a .536 OPS since the All-Star break.
Ben Gamel loses his spot on the active roster to make room for Spangenberg. Mat’s brother began the year as Milwaukee’s fourth outfielder, but he’s seen his playing time dwindle of late as his bat has gone cold and Trent Grisham has emerged. Benji his hitting a mere .214/.308/.339 since the break and owns a .243/.330/.376 slash in 291 plate appearances on the year for an 84 wRC+. With rosters expanding next week as the calendar turns to September, this figures to be only a minimum 10-day stint in the minors for Gamel. If he does indeed return after that brief of an absence, it wouldn’t even be enough time away for him to burn his minor league option, keeping it intact for 2020.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus