The start of the World Series means that Free Agency is less than two weeks from starting. Rumors will swirl around the Milwaukee Brewers and every free agent starting pitcher until they start signing. Should Tyler Chatwood get more than just rumors? Is there a case to bring Chatwood to Milwaukee ahead of other starters?
Tyler Chatwood arrived in the Major Leagues as a 22-year old rookie with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011. He was one of the worst starters in any rotation. His K/9 was only 4.69 and his BB/9 was 4.50. When he wasn’t walking guys, he was giving up hits in bunches with a line drive rate over 22%. Then he was dealt to Colorado, and he started to show progress.
If Chatwood was so rough, why bring him to the Brewers?
He improved in Colorado. Chatwood underwent his second Tommy John surgery in 2014, and didn’t come back to the Rockies rotation until 2016. He reworked his delivery, and ditched a bad slider for a competent cutter. The results were almost instant.
Chatwood made 27 starts in 2016 and recorded the finest year of his career. He posted a 3.87 ERA with a 6.66 K/9 and a 3.99 BB/9. He posted a line drive rate below 20% for the first time in his career with a 17.2% mark. Chatwood also did this while throwing half his games in Coors Field.
At Coors, Chatwood owned a 6.12 ERA. Away from Coors? His ERA was only 1.69. He had similar home / road splits in 2017 with a 6.01 ERA at Coors, and a 3.49 ERA away.
What about all those walks?
They are concerning. While the results were wildly different in Chatwood’s home and road starts, the strikeout and walk data was similar. In 2017 he posted a 6.7 K-BB% at home and a 6.9% mark on the road. His 12.2% walk rate in 2017 would put Chatwood among the worst in the league if he qualified for the leader board. There’s no way to spin it so it looks good for Chatwood. Walks are a concern, but he’s proven that he can generate grounders to pitch over them…as long as someone is there to catch them. He won’t turn 28 for a few more months, so there may be a chance he can overcome the walks with coaching and experience.
How much will Chatwood cost?
That’s hard to say right now. Chatwood earned $4.1 million in 2017, and will seek a huge raise now that he’s a free agent. Last year, Edinson Volquez got 2-years and $22 million after posting a 5.37 ERA for the Royals. Charlie Morton earned a 2-year deal worth $14 million after an injury-plagued 2016 and a few years of competent results. Neither are really comps for Chatwood, but a 3- or 4-year deal worth more than $12 million per season is in the neighborhood for Chatwood. He’s at least looking at Matt Garza money depending on how much interest there is.
Tyler Chatwood would slot right into the Milwaukee Brewers rotation behind Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Brandon Woodruff. He would give the Brew Crew a competent innings eater who can get grounders. A change of scenery, even to a hitter’s park like Miller Park, would be better than staying in Colorado. He profiles as an innings eater who can generate an impressive number of ground balls, and represents an upgrade over some of the guys who started in 2017. The innings, and the grounders, would be a welcome addition to the Milwaukee Brewers rotation.