When Eric Chavez re-signed with the New York Yankees last season, they hoped he would once again provide a reliable glove in the field and a modest bat to spell Alex Rodriguez at third base. He did much more than that and his production in 2012 should provoke the Yankees to consider a third season in pinstripes for Chavez.
Chavez’s agent, Scott Leventhal, indicated yesterday that his client does indeed plan on returning to the field in 2013.
“Chavy has no intention of retiring,” Leventhal said. “We have spoken to and met with multiple clubs regarding his future in baseball.”
Leventhal would not directly comment on whether the Yankees are one of those teams, but it would be foolish for Chavez to exclude them.
With Rodriguez almost a guarantee for two disabled list trips, or at least a candidate to be rested once or twice per week to avoid injury and fatigue, Chavez seems like the perfect fit for the club. He’d also be able to spell Mark Teixeira at first base, something that is lost with Nick Swisher leaving the Bronx.
Chavez fits because he’s a one-year contract situation; something the Yankees are trying hard to adhere to in as many signings as possible this offseason with the 2014 competitive balance threshold looming. He will also not cost too much in salary which is a modest concern for general manager Brian Cashman, even if the contract is just for one season. Chavez will likely command a healthy raise over his $900,000 paycheck in 2012.
Chavez, was on the field much more than the Yankees and probably he thought entering the season. When Rodriguez suffered a broken hand after getting hit by a pitch, it was mostly Chavez who saw time at third base and he looked more like the player the Oakland A’s once saw daily, than the man who was reduced to a strict bench role in 2011. Chavez’s performance was impressive in 313 plate appearances — .281/.348/.496, a .216 ISO with 16 home runs and 37 RBI — good for a 1.8 fWAR. For perspective, Rodriguez went .272/.353/.430 with 18 homers and 74 RBI in 524 plate appearances, resulting in a 2.2 fWAR.
Chavez is not quite as good in the field as he once was but he is not a detriment with the glove. His range has become limited compared to what it was when he was in his prime, but the same exact thing can be said about Rodriguez. Per the fielding metrics, Chavez was actually a modest improvement over Rodriguez (-4.1 UZR/150 versus -8.8).
I’m not suggesting that Chavez is a threat to Rodriguez’s job, nor does he profile to start on any team, but he makes more than a competent fill-in. I also don’t believe anyone should suspect that Chavez could duplicate his production with the stick in 2013. But, even if he fell somewhere between his 2012 and 2011 numbers (.263/.320/.356, 2 HR and 27 RBI in 175 plate appearances) it would provide the Yankees with what they need and that is simply some insurance.
Of course, the Yankees will not be focusing on the bench roles when the Winter Meetings kick off this morning in Nashville, Tenn., especially with the holes needed to be be filled in right field and at catcher. But, they should reach out to Chavez if they haven’t already and gauge his interest in a third season in the Bronx. He more than proved he has something left in his bat and showed he can be productive in short spurts or for extended time.