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Rockies release Chacin in puzzling move

David Martin Avatar
March 23, 2015

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It’s rare when any Major League team outright cuts someone they once considered their ace. When the Colorado Rockies do it, it’s a complete shock.
On Sunday, out of seemingly nowhere, the Rockies announced that they had outright released starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin.
This is the same pitcher who the Rockies touted so highly as he made his way through the minor league system, making his big league debut in 2009.
Chacin was never going to be a completely dominant big league pitcher. However, it would be hard to argue that he didn’t have the stuff to be a competent front-of-the-rotation starter. His stuff, at just 27-years-old, suggested he could be a No. 2 starting pitcher in the big leagues for a long time.
Fresh off of a $5.5 million deal inked in January, Chacin was out to prove that his injured right shoulder was healed. Clearly the Rockies decided that it wasn’t. With $4.4 million remaining, the Rockies released Chacin, saving that money and allowing them to either make a move or put the money away.
The move defies conventional baseball wisdom. Despite coming off of a shoulder injury, Chacin was highly regarded all the way through the minor leagues and had a fair amount of success at the big league level. To think that he would simply be cut seems to suggest that there is more to the story.
The Rockies may have explored a trade for the right-hander, but perhaps the Rockies know that even if they were able to make a deal that Chacin would fail the physical and have the deal nixed. If his shoulder is still injured, the Rockies would be in a position where they wouldn’t be able to deal him.
With no minor league options remaining due to service time, there is no way the club could have started him in the minor leagues, either. However, typically a team that faced the same issues with a pitcher that the Rockies face with Chacin would have simply put him on the disabled list to start the year and had him either stay in extended spring training, or go out on a rehab assignment somewhere in the minor leagues.
Another factor that may be in play with Chacin dates back to 2012. When the Rockies opened camp, then-general manager Dan O’Dowd made a bold statement to the media, suggesting that Chacin had come into camp well overweight and out of shape. It may have been the beginning of the Rockies feeling like Chacin wasn’t completely committed. One has to wonder if Chacin had failed to follow the guidelines that the Rockies put on him for his recovery in the offseason, or if they didn’t feel like he was dedicated enough to gain strength back after he had healed.
The answer, no matter how it shakes out, seems clear. The Rockies didn’t feel like Chacin was going to return to the form that made him a very capable and dependable starter in years passed. They clearly believe that he is damaged good, too damaged, in fact, to even trade for a lower-level minor leaguer.
A standard storyline for teams heading to spring training is which guy will win the job as fifth starter. For the Rockies, that question is rarely about just the fifth starter. For the most part, that question usually entails answering who will be the No. 4, the No. 5 and who will fill in the gaps in the bullpen. So when the Rockies outright cut a guy who was thought not only to have a spot locked down, but a top spot secure, it comes as a huge surprise.
There is an outside chance that the Rockies have a move brewing. To cut Chacin now saves the Rockies $4.4 million. Will they use that money to help them absorb the salary of someone who they are lining up to trade for? Is there something else going on? The chances of that are slim, however, to cut a pitcher when the Rockies are in desperate need of pitching seems illogical, unless the club truly believes that Chacin is completely damaged beyond repair.
Regardless, the move spells a start contrast in how Jeff Bridich is going to approach player-personnel decisions as compared to how Dan O’Dowd handled them.
Where the Rockies go from here should be interesting. It could open up a spot for one of the young starters to step in and take a spot, or it could make room for David Hale, acquired from the Braves in the offseason, to be a starter instead of a member of the bullpen.
There is no doubt that the Rockies shocked their fanbase when they announced the move to part ways with Jhoulys Chacin on Sunday.

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