Cubs Sign RHP Tyler Chatwood

The Cubs made a modest addition to their rotation today, announcing the signing of Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal. The former Rockies starter should fit in rather nicely in the back of the rotation, leaving just one spot to be filled, and whether that will be Shohei Ohtani, Alex Cobb, or someone else remains to be seen.

Chatwood was a second-round draft pick of the Angels in 2008, and he made his major league debut with the Angels in 2011. After Chatwood was traded to the Rockies in November 2011, the 28-year-old pitched five seasons in Colorado, missing 2015 with Tommy John surgery.

If we think of Chatwood as John Lackey's replacement, that is probably the proper perspective. He has had good numbers away from Coors -- a 3.49 ERA and .200 batting average against -- and the obvious hope is that he can be more like that iteration of himself when he is pitching at Wrigley and the ballparks of the NL Central instead of making half of his starts in Denver. One of the other reasons that the Cubs must have been drawn to him is his very high groundball rate. Chatwood has consistently kept his in the upper 50s, hitting 58.1% last year, the highest mark in his career since a 58.5% in 2013.

There are valid concerns, of course, but no back-end starter is without them. Chatwood has a full injury history, for starters. He had the aforementioned Tommy John surgery that cost him his 2015 season, and that was actually his second time under the knife for elbow surgery. Chatwood had his first Tommy John in 2006 when he was still in high school. He has been shelved for assorted other smaller concerns, but two elbow surgeries is enough to raise an eyebrow.

Along with that, Chatwood has struggled with his command. He had the worst walk rate of his career last season, so Jim Hickey and company must believe they can help him with that. Chatwood's strikeout rate did go up in 2017, but so did his home run rate.

The simple road splits mentioned above are just the surface though. Chatwood had a lower hard contact rate away from Coors Field last year (32.4% at home, 25.8% away), and his HR/FB drops in road games as well (28.6% to 17.9%). His groundball rate stayed about the same, but he gave up fewer line drives on the road and more fly balls. For whatever it's worth, this contributed to a difference in BABIP of .217 on the road compared to .350 at home.

Coors Field is hard on pitchers, and we have known this for years, so none of this should be all that surprising. It's apparent that the Cubs are banking on him staying healthy and pitching like he did on the road in 2017.

What this means for the Cubs going forward in free agency is not necessarily any more clear. It might mean that the price on Alex Cobb got to be too high, but signing Chatwood does not rule out signing Cobb or even Yu Darvish as well. We don't know any more about where Ohtani is going to go today than we did last night, so bringing in Chatwood is not necessarily an indication of what he is going to do.

Adding Chatwood to the rotation is a good move, and my only real fuss with it is the amount of money he was given, but that's a very minor concern. The takeaway should be that they have -- as has become true to form for the Cubs -- gotten out ahead of the market and signed the guy they want. Now we wait for the other chips to fall.

Filed under: Free Agency, Pitching

Tags: Tyler Chatwood

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  • Hey Jared,
    I like this signing as well.How much do you think he should have gotten?

  • As someone who's seen a fair share of Chatwood at Coors, I like this move. I'm actually a little more concerned about the BB rate than the injuries, but if Hickey can help with that, we could have a guy who exceeds his contract and his rotation placement.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    The Rockies infield defense wasn't good last year. Middle of the pack or worse. The Cubs ranked #1. With his excellent ground ball rate, he should be that much more effective with the Cubs.

    His elite spin rate on his curve and fastball should also play up away from Coors.

    Outside of Ohtani, he was the starter I wanted the Cubs to sign most. I'm thrilled they got him. At $12.667 million per year, for a 27-year-old (about to be 28 in 9 days) BOR starter with upside and a reasonable expectation of being at least a 2 WAR player away from Coors, it's a good value signing money-wise as well.

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    I like this.

  • Is losing a draft pick and international slot money worth it for a FA or
    should be trade Tyle or Happ. If we trade the pitcher must be
    under 30 and under control for a least 3 years.

  • Frankly - I just learned more about Chatwood from reading this article (nicely done btw Jared) than I knew before. As you described it Jared - there are reasons why he's best considered a BOR guy, but with a decent upside IF he's healthy and can keep up the groundball rate.

    A would also guess that we've just about guaranteed that we won't be seeing Lackey come back to the Cubs, even if he decides he wants to play another year of MLB ball.

    One more rotation spot to fill,... either internally or via FA,... I'm guessing that it'll be a FA guy though unless the management wants to take a chance on Montgomery, or one of the AAA guys.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I think the last rotation spot is filled via trade

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Wouldn't surprise me either WaitUntilNextYear - Just have to see how the rest of the Winter plays out.

    If they can find another guy like Quintana that has a couple of seasons of club contract control - I wouldn't object.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I think that is the goal

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thank you! I was fortunate to have a brief window of time during the day to put this together. This is a signing to feel very good about.

  • Chatwood also does a lot of little things well. He picks off runners, he fields his position very well, and he can handle the bat. Just a good athlete.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Also holds runners well. Runners are only 9/20 in SB attempts last two seasons.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Walks, wild pitches and injuries are the risk. All of the other parts of his game are above average or better.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Just hope his health holds out ! His stats away from Coors are not that bad.

  • I know this comment should be about Chatwood but I can't help it...

    This is from an article from fivethirtyeight.com

    In the American League, Ohtani would presumably play DH to save the wear and tear on his body in between starts, though the intrinsic value of a DH is the lowest of any position (therefore raising the bar for his hitting production), and he wouldn’t get in any extra trips to the plate on days he was pitching. In the National League, Ohtani could hit for himself during starts, make better use of his above-average fielding skills on off-days and need less impressive hitting stats to produce value. (Plus, if he ever came out of the bullpen, he could even be the rare reliever who stays in the game when his lineup slot comes up.) For those reasons, it does seem like the NL would offer more opportunities for Ohtani’s unique repertoire of skills to add value.

  • Very good recap, Jared. Not sure how I feel about this signing. One the one hand, I like the big arm and velocity. On the other hand, not excited about the walk rate. His home/road splits were weird too. On the road his k/bb rate was worse, gave up the same amount of HRs, but the BAA was 100 points less. Hard to make out how he went down to a 3.49 ERA on the road outside of the BAA. Is that sustainable? As a 4/5, probably an ok signing.

    Maybe Hickey sees some things he really likes and feels like he can fix to improve his command.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thanks! I feel mostly good about it, especially considering that this is a BOR guy. If he performs somewhere between his home/road splits, he'll be a great bridge back to Hendricks/Quintana/Lester.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Remember, it isn't just the HR rates at the thin air in Coors Field. It also makes throwing breaking balls less effective, and Chatwood throws a lot of those.

    They also have a gigantic outfield which increases base hits, especially since OFs typically play deep there to cut off as many balls as they can in the huge gaps. There have been plenty of pitchers that have been singled to death by Coors.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Very good points. I did consider that too. When looking at the bb/k rate, I figured it to improve upon going on the road and it didn't. To drop 2.5 in ERA on the road is significant and seeing it is in the BAA department is a little worrisome. I was hoping a drop in BB rate and spike in K rate or drop in HR rate would be there and it wasn't.

    But with his '16 performance on the road, maybe he is really solid away from Coors.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Couple of other things to remember is he has a very high spin rate which doesn't fair as well in the high altitude. Chatwood also has some Hendricks leanings in his pitching and can learn from the Professor first hand.

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Good call on the spin rate, already a couple articles up on fangraphs pointing that out.
    A commenter linked away splits leaders from 2015-17, minimum 150 innings - granted, he just made the cut, but for the backend and 3 years, a lot if upside. Top 10 wOBA and ERA. note Arrieta in comparison. Me likey.

    https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=150&type=0&season=2017&month=16&season1=2015&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=17,a

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Mike Hampton comes to mind. GB pitcher whose sinker didnt sink enough at Coors.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    his movement will be better also. I noticed his BB rate spiked at Coors, which conntributed to his inflated ERA. Babip in Coors last year was .350, even tho his HR total was fairly modest. Didnt have great overall defense there either except for Arrenando.

  • This is actually a very good move by Theo.....there was nothing other than money given up and he keeps the rest of his powder dry.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Yep - and if he performs well enough to fend off the AAA guys for the #5 rotation spot - then he'll earn his pay.

  • If you look at where the Cubs are at in their competitive window, their starting pitching situation, the cost of trading for starting pitching and the pitchers available via free agency this off season, this signing is a no brainer in my opinion.
    I really like that he will be 28 and that his velocity was up a tick in 2017.

  • In reply to couch:

    +1

  • Very solid move and at a very good price. Didn't Lackey get similiar money on a 2 year deal at age 38?!

    Chatwood is only 28, so still room to improve, and since he is a groundball pitcher plays to the strength of the Cubs defense.

    In my opinion he is the #5, I still think Cobb and possibly Ohtani, along with a trade for a TOR are very much still in play.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Lackey’s pitched & won some huge ball games in his career. I think this deal was a little pricey for a #5 & wouldn’t compare him & Lackey.

    But I do agree with your other points. They need to roster 5 starters & could have done worse.

  • Does this signing point to a future 6-man rotation with Othani informing the Cubs they earned his service rights?

    27 starts for each person in a 6-man rotation. At 6 innings per start, that's 162 innings for the year........ or a few innings more than Chatwood's max in his last 2 full season's.

    Hmmm.......was this part of the pitch?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    And looking at the schedule........in a hypothetical 6-man rotation, the #4 starter starts each game on Sunday during the months on April, May and June (with the exception of 3 starts in a long period of consecutive games in late June).

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    In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I was just thinking the same thing. I'd actually like to see the cubs try a 6 man rotation especially with Jon Lester getting up there in age and it would also take some wear and tear off our other starters. If they do decide to go the 6 man route and decide to trade for another SP i really hope it's Schwarber that gets traded and not Happ because the cubs will need Happ's versatility,

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Nothing points to a 6 man rotation

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I agree it is kind of jumping the gun. Not to say that the Cubs won't go to a 6-man rotation, at least part of the time. But signing a solid 4th starter does NOT necessarily mean "We might be going to a 6-man rotation." There are a lot of moving parts to making that happen. Remember, there are other teams making serious offers to Ohtani and no assurance we get 2 more really good starters this off-season. And that would be the minimum to go with a 6-man rotation.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think the Cub pitchers would rather stay on routine with a 5 man rotation. I think the pitching coach would rather stay on schedule with a 5 man rotation. The team does not want its best pitchers pitching less and Maddon would them have 1 less bullpen arm. I see almost no chance of a 6 man rotation happening.

  • nothing about this move hurts the Cubs. You get a BOR with the potential to get another starter still there either via FA or trade. They then get to allow Tseng & Underwood to not have to be pressed into duty. They will be able to get a full year of development in AAA. Hatch and Lange don't have to press. It takes the pressure off of the system pitching to just develop.

    3yr/$38 is ultimately tradeable down the road as well if you need to move pieces.

  • In reply to Gator:

    Exactly right, Gator.

    Side note: The kind of money BOR starters get these days is just amazing. But that is in fact where the market is at -- and its only gonna go higher down the road.

    Once again, we are so lucky to have this front office and ownership.
    They're the best. Can't wait to see what else they do this off season.

  • Chatwood essentially replaces Lackey. Cobb supposedly is down to the Cubs or Stankees, frankly hes a better fit in Chicago than NY. Im thinking Cubs will likely sign 2 relievers as well.

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    It's a good signing, especially as a #4 or 5 starter. I just read that he has good movement on his pitches and throws a full complement of pitches too. As with all pitchers, as you said Jared, command is the key. He has a good GB rate and with our infield that's a plus. Also, he is only 28 and we have him for 3 years and by that time our younger pitchers will be ready to take his place in the rotation.

  • I said Chatwood & Cobb were the starting pitchers (not named otani)who I hoped the cubs could sign this off season. Halfway there ,great signing I think it will be an incredible great value signing after 3 years

  • In reply to bolla:

    Good call, bolla. I do remember that prediction. I thought Chatwood was a stretch, but was aligned with you on Cobb,

    I agree with the value aspect.

  • Read somewhere that Chatwood has the 2nd best road ERA of MLB pitchers over the past two years. Also read that he averaged 95mph on his fastball last year. Don't know much else, but it seems like a nice signing for a 28yo pitcher.

  • https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/what-the-cubs-might-see-in-tyler-chatwood/

    Must read on chatwood

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    Seattle just acquired Dee Gordon. Could that make it more attractive for Ohtani? I still like our chances, but if not us I'm guessing Seattle will get him.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Does Seattle have the financial resources to sign Ohtani to the huge contract that he's going to eventually get?

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    Yes. Cano is really there only contract on the books after 2021. They need a long term replacement for Hernandez in the rotation.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    AND another $1 million in International money. I think the odds of Seattle are going up significantly.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Seattle also got another $1M in international spending with the deal. I think that puts them over $3M now to offer Ohtani.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Oops didn't see Mike's post before mine. Seattle now has $3.5575M I believe.

  • Signing a fourth starter now, gives Theo options for the meetings next week. Pressure is down for having to make a deal or signing at the Winter meetings.

    Plus, I believe Cobb wants more years to sign. He's not a 3 year signing. Pushing for 5 years if possible.

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    I really hope that the cubs can fill their pitching needs via free agents and keep all our young players because the cubs farm system is really barren now and if they have any injuries next year there's not going to be much help coming from Iowa.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I agree. Michael said the other day what I was already thinking.... they can’t keep trading the farm&/or young hitters... the well will run dry.

    That said though, they really need to start producing at least a 4th 5th starter here or there on their own & occasionally/eventually their own ToR guy(s) to offset the spending for the “Going for it” FAs.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I think they will trade one of their current position players for a cost controlled starter. Besides getting a needed young starter it will help change the mix of hitters in the lineup.

  • Seattle adding more money to offer otani isn't a determining factor imo. This kid is leaving 150-200 million on the table by not waiting 2 more years an extra 3 million won't sway him now, I read a report one of his endorsement deals in japan was worth double what the max signing bonus he can get(texas). I think he will pick the padres

    Also acquiring gordon and playing him in cf makes no sense he's a better defensive 2b than cano. Dipito traded some of the mariners top prospects for all this international money,he's pushing all his chips to the middle of the table.

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    Small sample size but at Wrigley he's got the lowest WHIP and ERA and 2nd highest SO/9 for any ballpark he's pitched 10 or more innings at. If he stays healthy, I can see this looking like a steal in 3 years.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.fcgi?id=chatwty01&year=Career&t=p#site_extra::24

  • This may be a very savvy signing. He pitches so much better away from Coors, and if that fangraphs article that bolla posted a link to is right, he may now want to raise his arm slot higher which could really improve the movement on his pitches. This signing could be a steal for the Cubs.

  • The Mariners just acquired 1 million more in international slot money. They traded number 2 prospect RHP Nick Niedert, number 7 prospect INF Chris Torres, and RHP Robert Dugger to Miami for INF Dee Gordon and the slot money.

  • If we can add Cobb along with Chatwood to fill out the back of the rotation without giving up anyone on our Major League roster, I am thrilled with that result.

    These two, along with Kyle and Q are entering or in their prime years so still have some mileage in them as we await some of the younger guys to make their impact at the higher levels.

    Keep the powder dry in the cannon for future moves (bullpen or trade deadline deals in July 2018).

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    Ohtani is going to want to sign with a team that has the best chance of winning the WS. Houston, LA and the Cubs offer that. The better we are, and the signing of Chatwood makes us better, that increases our chance of getting him, as well as making us better to win the WS. This is a good day for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    You can point to many factors as to where Ohtani is signing. From reports it appears Seattle and San Diego are the favorites.

  • How about Billy Hamilton or Christian Yelich playing outfield and leading off ???????

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Yelich would be a good get

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    In reply to ronvet69:

    NO on Hamilton. Definite YES on Yelich.

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    From the Denver Post's writer on Chatwood when answering a reader's question -

    "Patrick: Actually, I’m happy for Chatwood. He could not wait to get out of Coors Field. He’s got great stuff and if he can cut down on the walks, he should do well with the Cubs.

    I will say this, however. He’s pretty thin-skinned, at times, so he might have a tougher tine with Windy City media. Also, he can be VERY stubborn.

    But a fresh start will do him good."

    Hope he can show some more maturity in terms of taking things too personally. Chicago media won't be as patient as Denver press.

  • One of the things people forget about in discussing walk rates again goes back to Coors. When you have to be precise in order to obviate the thin air in CO a pitcher tends to be a bit less effective control wise. A confident pitcher with a better breaking ball, a solid infield defense and heavier air tends to have better control. Whoda thunk?

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    It appears there is one more OFer the FO should entertain the idea of acquiring. Stanton has listed the Cubs as one of the four teams he'd accept a trade to. I don't have a solid opinion yet but I have to think it's an avenue worth exploring for Theo and Jed. Perhaps a 3 team deal where we absorb money and get pitching in return.

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    In reply to Tyler Cunningham:

    Dexter might be available again, as well.

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    In reply to Ray:

    Dexter is about to lose a lot of value not being able to play CF. I expect the Blue Jays to go after him if they want to take one more shot at it.

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    Hmmm reports are Stanton will only accept a trade to Dodgers,Astros,Yankees and CUBS! Wonder what theo could come up with here and what would it cost?

    c

  • In reply to Rick Rariden:

    To me this looks like PR through and through. Stanton picks four teams, two of which in the Cubs and Yankees don't want him, another in the Astros that couldn't afford him in their wildest dreams and then the Dodgers who he really wants to play for. It looks a lot better than just saying "I will only play for the Dodgers" which is what he actually is saying without coming out and saying it. Keeps him from looking like a jerk. Public relations 101.

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