Winter Moves Update: Chatwood, Gordon, and Fiers

The hot stove is finally rocking! As I’m writing this, Shohei Ohtani has signed with the Angels. I wrote about him yesterday and even though I was hyping my Mariners pick, you can just ignore that part and focus on the ranking and skills assessment. A bevy of moves with fantasy impact took place yesterday, too!

Chatwood was a buzzy free agent this year thanks in part to Mike Petriello showing how he could be this year’s Charlie Morton. The Cubs snatched him up and while I wouldn’t say $12.7 mil is an overpay, I kinda expected him to be more in the $9-10 mil per year level. Of course, all the teams were aware of the things Petriello covered in his piece already so I’m sure there was some competition that pushed him up to that price. His 3.31 career road ERA has gotten a lot of run, as it’s nearly two runs lower than his 5.25 at home, done mostly at Coors Field.

His K-BB% only goes from horrible 4% at home to an imperceptibly less-horrible 5% mark on the road, but there are reasons to believe he can improve. In addition to the velocity boost covered in Mike’s piece (from 92.2 to 94.7), he did have a career-best 10% swinging strike rate and it’s not hard to see how his raw stuff could yield more strikeouts. The walks could be tricky, though, for the exact same reason: his nasty raw stuff is difficult to command. He’s never topped 56% with his first-pitch strike rate.

There’s clearly an expectation that they can take the best parts of Chatwood’s profile, amplify them, and get something beyond his peak thus far. I’m talking more from the skills profile, too. He has a 3.15 ERA season from back in 2013 (111.3 IP), but it came with a 5% K-BB and 7% SwStr. If he posts something like a 3.50 ERA with skills support for 160 innings, it’s a win for the Cubs. Can he make it 160 innings, though? Or hold for three years? He does have seven career DL stints, including three in the last two seasons. I have Chatwood at 75 in my SP rankings and I’m not sure how much – if at all – I’ll boost him.

Obviously, if he becomes this year’s Morton, he’ll best that mark easily, but I don’t see a full Mortonian transformation. I think it’ll be something like 140 innings of a 3.80 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 22% K rate. Useful, but not game-changing. Don’t get too caught up in the hype during your drafts or else you get into a situation where he has to perform to pay off.

When news of this trade first broke, it was perplexing because of course the Mariners have Robinson Cano firmly locked into 2B, but we quickly learned that Gordon would be headed to centerfield. Check out Jeff’s piece on how that transition might go. Fantasy-wise, I don’t think a ton changes. I think his value holds even if you choose to put him in the OF after he gains eligibility a few weeks in or just leave him at 2B.

The biggest question is whether he will still leadoff with Jean Segura at #2 and then Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager as the heart of the order. He probably won’t repeat his 114 runs even if he does leadoff, but I think 95-100 is well within reason and that’d be the second-best total of his career. He should remain a top 3-5 2B easily and in the OF he’s essentially Billy Hamilton if Hamilton knew how to hit at all, making him a top 10 OF value-wise.

Let’s turn to Eric Longenhagen for some thoughts on a couple of the prospects going back to Miami:

I didn’t see him put up anything on Dugger. Chris Mitchell projected the whole trio in this piece.

  • Mike Fiers signed by DET to a 1-year, $6 million dollar deal

I didn’t think the Tigers rebuild was going to be done this quickly, but this signing all but ensures the World Series title they couldn’t quite finish off over the last decade. Jokes aside, Fiers had a brutal year because he simply couldn’t keep the ball in the park with a 1.9 HR/9, but he was his normal perfectly solid self for the limited time he was able to contain the longball. There was a 10-start run from May 30th to July 21st when he posted a 2.36 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with just 3 HR allowed in 61 IP. He allowed 29 homers in his other 92.3 innings with a 7.11 ERA.

Minute Maid park does suppress runs on the whole, but inflates homers with 105 righty and 108 lefty park factors per Stat Corner. Comerica gets a 101 mark on both. The Tigers need to fill some innings and you need some reasonably reliable veterans to get there. Fiers probably won’t keep a 20% HR/FB rate, but he was at 15% the year before and has a 14% career mark so homers are just a part of his game. If he can post a 1.2 HR/9, he can eat up 170 innings with a mid-4.00s ERA. He’s only a fantasy asset in AL-only leagues unless we see a drastic change in his home runs and at 33 years old, that seems unlikely (unless new pitching coach Chris Bosio has some tricks up his sleeve!).

We hoped you liked reading Winter Moves Update: Chatwood, Gordon, and Fiers by Paul Sporer!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Jim Melichar
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Jim Melichar

Paul, there’s a path from Chatwood’s gains making him an 11% swinging strike guy (second half according to Brooks Baseball data) with the new arm slot on the curveball, however that didn’t translate to his K/9.

The road ERA the past two seasons is purely outlier driven due to the largest outlier in hit suppression. 216 BABIP from his 157.1 road innings in 2016-2017 isn’t repeatable based on his BB/9 and K/9 (or K-BB):

There’s some hope that ranked up curveball usage could help him but there are a limited few successful SPs that are running out 4BB/9 and they aren’t better than backend starters right now.