Tigers reliever Andrew Chafin will decline his $6.5MM player option for 2023, reports Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press. He’ll hit the open market five days after the World Series concludes in search of a new multi-year pact.
It’ll be the third consecutive offseason in which the southpaw is available in free agency. After a lengthy stint with the Diamondbacks to begin his career, Chafin was dealt to the Cubs at the 2020 deadline before hitting the open market for the first time. He re-signed with Chicago on a one-year deal the following offseason, then hit the market last winter. That came on the heels of a sparkling 2.83 ERA showing through 68 2/3 frames with the Cubs and A’s which positioned him alongside Aaron Loup and Brooks Raley as the top lefty relievers available. Chafin wound up inking a two-year, $13MM guarantee with the Tigers that allowed him to opt out after his first season.
In a Detroit offseason largely defined by misfires, the Chafin deal marked a stellar pickup. It was never likely he’d manage to replicate a sub-2.00 ERA, but this year’s 2.83 mark across 57 1/3 innings was again excellent. He posted unanimously strong peripherals as well, striking out 27.6% of batters faced and racking up grounders on a bit more than half the batted balls he allowed. For a second straight season, he walked under 8% of opponents, a lower than average mark and a welcome development after some control inconsistency earlier in his career.
Chafin wasn’t quite as dominant against southpaws this past season as he’d been in 2021. After holding lefties to a .170/.250/.223 slash last year, he allowed a .233/.320/.344 mark to them in Detroit. That’s still quite strong overall, and unlike many lefty relievers, Chafin hasn’t been prone to drastic platoon splits. Opposing righties mustered just a .214/.268/.317 line against him, and he fanned almost 27% of right-handed batters for a second straight season.
With that kind of performance, it’s no surprise the Meister Sports Management client believes he’ll top the remaining $6.5MM on his contract. Still, there was some intrigue about his decision, largely due to Detroit’s relative proximity to his Ohio home. That reportedly played a role in his decision to sign with the Tigers, and it was seemingly a factor in the team’s decision-making at this past trade deadline. With Detroit long since out of contention by the end of July, Chafin was a reasonable trade candidate. However, the Tigers didn’t find an offer to their liking, and Petzold has reported the front office didn’t feel pressured to take just any return out of a belief Chafin could trigger his player option to stay in Detroit.
That obviously won’t be the case, and while it stands to reason he’d welcome a return to the Tigers on a new free agent deal, it appears less likely the team would want to top the market for his services. Former GM Al Avila was dismissed midseason and replaced by president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who’s now tasked with overseeing a roster that has a number of injury questions in the starting rotation and players coming off down years all around the diamond. Harris and his staff should have a fair bit of financial breathing room this winter, but it’s unlikely they’ll prioritize adding to the bullpen.
Chafin will be one of the top left-handed relievers on the market. He’s headed into his age-33 season, which could prevent him from finding a three-year deal, but he should at least find strong two-year offers from teams. It’s a generally weak left-handed bullpen class, with Taylor Rogers and Matt Strahm among the other top options available.