Once the Rockies Rising Star, Chacin Salvaged His Career In Milwaukee

While the Milwaukee Brewers were shopping last winter for off-season additions, general manager David Stearns made his investment in position players, signing free-agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $75 million deal,

Then he acquired right fielder Christian Yelich, inheriting a club-friendly deal that, including 2018, is worth $44.5 million for four years, buying out the first two years of free agency, and including an option for his third potential free agent sceson that would add up to $58.25 million over five years for a player only 26.

When it came to addressing needs on the pitching staff, however, Stearns decided to gamble.

He hit the jackpot.

While there were bigger names, drawing bigger deals, he signed Jhoulys Chacin to a two-year, $15.5 million deal, and Wade Miley to a minor-league deal with a $2.5 million salary when he made the big-league roster.

The gambles paid off for a team that lost last year’s No.1 starter Jimmy Nelson for the season, Zack Davies for three months, and Brent Suter to a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery in July.

Chacin and Miley are part of the reason the Brewers not only had the best regular-season record in the NL (96-67), but beat the Cubs in Game 163 for the NL Central title, and go into Sunday’s game against the Rockies at Coors Field with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

 Chacin was one of 11 free-agent pitchers to sign deals with $10 million guarantees in the off-season, and the only one with a better season was Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals, who returned from Japan for a two-year, $15.5 million deal.

Miley was placed on the active roster on May 2, made only two starts before suffering a left oblique strain, but returned in July and by season’s end, Miley was 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA, the Brewers winning 12 of his 16 starts.

He will start Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Rockies at Coors Field on Sunday.

Chacin was there all season, and repaid Stearns’ confidence. He was 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA -- the Brewers winning 23 of his 35 starts --   in the regular season, and then, after starting the Brewers Game 163 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, returned on three days of rest in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Rockies, another Brewers win.

“He is doing what he is good at,” said manager Craig Counsell. “It’s a sinking fastball. It’s a very good breaking ball. It’s a sprinkled-in changeup to left-handed hitters. Overall, he’s pitched well.”

And he had all that going for him against the Rockies, the team for which he was once a rising star. He even started Opening Day in 2013, a season in which he was 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA, working 197 1/3 innings, and despite calling Coors Field home, allowing only 11 home runs.

And he admits, “I still follow them. I still have good friends on the team. The Rockies were my first team.”

With the Rockies, though, Chacin just couldn’t stay healthy. Called up from Double-A Tulsa on July 24, 2009, he was in the rotation in 2010 and had nine wins, a 3.28 ERA, and 138 strikeouts, which led MLB rookies. He was 11-14 with a 3.62 ERA the next year, pitching 194 innings and striking out 150.

But then. …

He strained a pectoral muscle in 2012 and made only 14 starts.

And in 2014, he was 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA, sidelined in late June by a torn labrum after 11 starts.

Then, in a bit of a surprise, with free agency just a season away, he was released by the Rockies midway through the spring of 2015, having shown below-grade velocity and struggling with command.

He caught on with Arizona in 2015, but made only four appearances, sidelined by a recurrence of the labrum tear. And he bounced from Atlanta (1-2, 5.40 in five starts) to the Angels (4-6, 4.68, 29 games 17 starts) in 2016, spent 2017 in San Diego re-establishing a market (13-10, 3.89), and found his new home in Milwaukee in 2018.

“I always felt I would be able to pitch again,” said Chacin. “I never thought about quitting.”

The key is there were teams willing to continually give him a chance, and then the Brewers stepped up with two years of security.

Not So Free Agents

Year Team W-L G INN H R ER ERA Contract
Miles Mikolas StL 18-4 32 200.2 186 70 63 2.83 2 yr, $15.5 mil
Jhoulys Chacin Mil 15-8 35 192.2 153 83 75 3.5 2 yr, $15.5 mil
Jake Arrieta Phi 10-11 31 172.2 165 93 76 3.96 3 yr, $75 mil
Lance Lynn Min/NYY 10-10 31 156.2 163 87 83 4.77 1 yr, $10 mil
Jason Vargas NYM 7-9 20 92.0 100 60 59 5.77 2 yr, $16 mil
Alex Cobb Bal 5-15 15 152.1 172 93 83 4.9 4 yr, $57 mil
Andrew Cashner Bal 4-15 28 153.0 177 97 90 5.29 2 yr, $16 mil
Tyler Chatwood ChC 4-6 24 103.2 92 62 61 5.82 3 yr, $38 mil
Jamie Gacia Tor/ChC 3-7 33 82.0 82 57 53 4.95
Yu Darvish ChC 1-3 8 40.0 36 24 22 5.29 2 yr, $10 mil
Michael Pineda Minn DNP 2 yr, $10 mil
Drew Smyly Cubs DNP
Tracy RingolsbyComment