There’s nothing like coming home after a long day and seeing some Jays rumors to chime in on. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported this afternoon that 33-year-old former Oakland Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez recently worked out for the Blue Jays.
Chavez signed a 6-year-$66M contract extension with the A’s in 2004, the largest in team history, which prevented him from being able to test free agency after the 2004 season. He is now a free agent after the A’s decided to cut ties with him back in November when they declined his $12.5M 2011 club option and opted to buy him out for $3M instead. The talent could still be there with Chavez, but he comes with his fair share of questions.
From 2001-2006, Chavez was regarded as one of the premier third basemen in the league. He managed a .273/.351/.495 slash line and 28.2 WAR over that time, while notching at least 22 home runs and 72 RBI in each of those six seasons. He appeared in less than 137 games only once, had four 100+ RBI seasons, and received MVP votes in four straight seasons from 2002-2005. Defensively, he was above average and received six straight AL Gold Gloves.
When the extension was announced in March 2004, A’s GM Billy Beane had this to say about Chavez:
“With Chavvy, it was never about being the richest guy in the world. In my opinion, with all due respect to Mr. Rolen in St. Louis, this is the best third baseman in baseball. You’re going to make us all look very bright over the next few years.”
Chavez was given credit for accepting a hometown discount to stay with the A’s, the team that had drafted him 10th overall in 1996. No one would have ever expected what Chavez would go through during the last four years of his contract.
From 2007-2010, Chavez eventually endured five stints on the disabled list, which included five surgeries from September 2007 to June 2009 for injuries concerning his right forearm, back, and neck. He has played in just 64 games since the start of the 2008 season, and has mustered just a .222/.265/.330 line to go along with 3 home runs, 25 RBI and 15 walks from 2008-2010.
Apparently Chavez is moving well now though, fielding balls at third base and taking batting practice in workouts five times a week in Arizona.
This is exactly the type of contract GM Alex Anthopoulos likes, the low-risk, high-reward kind. Chavez is likely only going to be able to get a one-year, Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training, with perhaps some incentives should he make the Jays’ Opening Day roster. Doing so would allow him to regain any value that he might have left, and then be able to explore free agency once again after a potentially healthy 2011 season.
For the Jays, and this is assuming Chavez is somewhat healthy and makes the Jays’ roster out of Spring Training, signing him would allow Jose Bautista to head back to right field, his preferred position. This would then bump newly-acquired Rajai Davis to a fourth outfielder role, which, to a lot of Jays fans throughout the blogosphere and on Twitter, that would be the preferred scenario (even though giving Davis some regular at-bats early in the season is worth a shot). Corey Patterson would likely be the odd-man out, and would spend some time with Triple-A Las Vegas while the Chavez experiment runs its course.
As with all Minor League contracts with invites to Spring Training, they’re cheap, and very hard to complain about. If Chavez can return to any sort of his previous form, which is asking a lot, he could work as a stopgap option at third base.