Braves finalize deal for Rays' Chavez
Atlanta happy with trade; Soriano heading to Tampa Bay
ATLANTA -- When Braves general manager Frank Wren began reconstructing his relief corps with last week's acquisitions of closer Billy Wagner and setup man Takashi Saito, he didn't realize that this reconstruction process would be further aided by one of his free agents who previously handled these late-inning relief roles.
Rafael Soriano's decision to accept his arbitration offer on Monday might have caused some unexpected stress. But in the end, it has also seemingly provided the Braves the opportunity to add a power arm to their new-look bullpen.
Before leaving this year's Winter Meetings on Thursday, Wren agreed to trade Soriano to the Rays in exchange for Jesse Chavez, a hard-throwing, 26-year-old, right-handed reliever. The deal was officially completed Friday after all medical reviews were completed.
"We like [Chavez] a lot," Wren said. "We feel like he really adds another power arm to our bullpen that is now further improved. We thought we were losing two guys [Mike Gonzalez and Soriano], and in actuality, we ended up getting a guy that we like a lot for Soriano."
The Braves offered arbitration to both Gonzalez and Soriano with the intention to gain the Draft pick compensation (a first- or second-rounder and a sandwich pick between those two rounds) that came courtesy of their status as Type A free agents.
But with Soriano's decision to accept the arbitration offer, Atlanta instead will gain the Draft picks when Gonzalez signs elsewhere and the tangible, immediate return that comes in the form of Chavez, who posted a 4.01 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .263 against him in a team-high 73 appearances for the Pirates this past season.
"In some regards, this is better than having a Draft pick, from our point of view," Wren said.
While Soriano prepares to serve as a closer with the Rays, Chavez finds himself adding another chapter to what has been an eventful offseason. On Nov. 3, he learned that Pittsburgh had traded him to Tampa Bay in exchange for Akinori Iwamura.
"I told my wife that I just need to know where to go for Spring Training," said Chavez, who learned of this latest trade when his agent called him at his California home around 10:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday.
When Chavez arrives in the Orlando area to experience his first Spring Training with the Braves, he'll have the opportunity to reunite with former Pirate Nate McLouth and Jo-Jo Reyes, a childhood teammate. The right-handed reliever also has a link to Tommy Hanson, provided the fact that a few years separated them from being teammates at Riverside Community College in California.
Chavez, who has a fastball that rests between 94-96 mph, made his Major League debut with 15 appearances in 2008 and was on Pittsburgh's Opening Day roster this past season.
In 67 1/3 innings with the Pirates, Chavez limited left-handed hitters to a .228 batting average and a .288 on-base percentage. Right-handed hitters batted .299 and compiled a .356 on-base percentage against him.
The long ball proved to be a problem for Chavez, who allowed 11 homers during this first full year at the Major League level. Fatigue may have played a factor as he surrendered four of these homers in September and posted a 5.10 ERA in his final 30 appearances.
"The positive was that I stayed around all year," Chavez said. "I wasn't expecting to make the team out of Spring Training. When I look back on it, there are some numbers that I wanted to be better. But I just want to work hard to get the right mechanics and do better every year."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.