The Diamondbacks have agreed to a reunion with Andrew Chafin, as the veteran left-hander will rejoin his original team on a one-year deal with a club option for the 2024 season. Chafin will earn a $5.5MM salary in 2023, and Arizona’s club option is worth $7.25MM (with a $750K buyout). Up to $1MM in bonus money is also available for Chafin if he makes at least 55 appearances in 2023. Chafin is represented by Meister Sports Management.
Chafin was drafted 43rd overall by the D’Backs in 2011 and he spent his first seven MLB seasons in an Arizona uniform before being dealt to Chicago in a 2020 deadline swap. That initial stint with the Diamondbacks led to mostly positive numbers, as Chafin logged a 3.68 ERA over 271 2/3 innings in his first go-around with Arizona, though he was struggling (albeit in the small sample size of the abbreviated 2020 season) at the time of his trade to the Cubs.
In the two full seasons since that trade, Chafin has taken things to another level while pitching for the Cubs, A’s and Tigers. Over 126 innings since the start of the 2021 campaign, Chafin has a 2.29 ERA, 47.9% grounder rate, 7.5% walk rate, and 25.7% strikeout rate. That above-average K% is further bolstered by very strong chase rates in the last two seasons and an 87th-percentile 31.4% whiff rate in 2022. Chafin has also done a very good job of inducing soft contact.
On the basis of a good platform year with the Tigers in 2022, Chafin declined a $6.5MM player option for 2023 in order to seek out a longer-term contract in free agency. Even though Chafin was one of the better relievers on the marker this winter, he couldn’t find a multi-year pact, and will now end up receiving slightly less (in guaranteed money) than the amount he rejected on his player option. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal recently wrote that Matt Strahm’s two-year, $15MM deal with the Phillies seemed to throw off the market for left-handed relievers, to the extent that Chafin, Matt Moore, and Zack Britton were all still looking for new deals despite quite a bit of interest from multiple clubs.
It puts some added pressure on Chafin to continue his good form as he enters his age-33 season, yet he’ll get to pitch in a comfortable and familiar environment in Arizona. The deal becomes a two-year, $12.75MM pact if the Diamondbacks do exercise their club option, which still unexpectedly puts Chafin behind Strahm in total value.
From the Diamondbacks’ perspective, landing Chafin at a relative discount price is a very nice outcome for a team in sore need of bullpen help. After the relief corps was a weak link in 2022, the D’Backs have responded by signing Miguel Castro and Scott McGough to MLB contracts, and brought in a wide array of experienced arms (including Jeurys Familia, Austin Brice, Zach McAlister, Jandel Gustave, Sam Clay, and several others) to camp on minor league deals.
Arizona heads into Spring Training with plenty of competition for bullpen jobs, so Chafin will be one of relatively few Diamondback pitchers that are assured of spots on the Opening Day roster. With an unsettled closer’s position also up for grabs, Chafin could even be a candidate to make some saves, even though he has mostly worked as a setup man throughout his career.
MLBTR ranked Chafin 39th on our list of the offseason’s top 50 free agents, and projected the left-hander for a two-year, $18MM deal. Jurickson Profar and Michael Wacha are the final two players still unsigned from that 50-player list.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) was the first to report the signing, and the general financial parameters. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter links) had the specific financial breakdown, and reported that the D’Backs held a club option.