In the summary to Jhoulys Chacin's start yesterday, I wrote this: "While Chacin doesn't appear to be injured, he also doesn't appear to be totally right. Still, there's no indication right now that he won't begin the season in the starting rotation."
Unambiguous indication has now been received: The Rockies have released Jhoulys Chacin. The move ends the tenure of one of the most talented pitchers the Rockies have ever employed.
On the one hand, Chacin's release is surprising. The Rockies and Chacin, who is just 27, agreed to a $5.5 million contract in January, which was more than half a million more than MLB Trade Rumors' Matt Swartz predicted. It was Chacin's final contract before becoming a free agent after the season. Not only that, but the Rockies need major league pitchers to populate the starting rotation. Seen from another angle, many people were surprised that the Rockies even decided to tender Chacin a contract in the offseason.
On the other hand, it's an unsurprising move. Chacin began 2014 on the disabled list with shoulder troubles. He returned to make eleven starts, but he was not himself. His velocity was gone and his breaking balls had no bite. So far this spring, Chacin's performances have been similarly uninspiring. In his start yesterday, he showed that some of his velocity returned. Yet, he had trouble getting batters out.
It's likely that the Rockies always considered it a possibility that they would have to cut Chacin before the season began. According to Joel Sherman (tweet), Chacin earned just $1.4 million of the $5.5 million agreement he and the team came to in January. The Rockies essentially paid a small portion of his contract to find out whether or not he was still worth keeping on the roster for the entirety of 2015. It was a smart risk, even if it didn't turn out the way we all wanted it to.
Chacin was with the Rockies organization for just over a decade. The Rockies signed him as an amateur free agent in 2004. From 2007 to 2009, Chacin worked his way through the Rockies' minor league system. He made his big league debut as a 21-year-old in July 2009. In 2013, Chacin had one of the best pitching seasons in Rockies history. He started 31 games, tossed 197 innings, and mirrored a 3.47 ERA with a 3.47 FIP. His 4.4 fWAR in 2013 has been bested only by Ubaldo Jimenez's 2009 and 2010, Pedro Astacio's 1999, and Aaron Cook's 2008.
Chacin's release opens a spot in the Rockies' opening day starting rotation. The likely candidates to fill it, at least at first, are David Hale, Christian Bergman, and Eddie Butler.
Prior to the Rockies spring training game today, ROOT played a brief interview with general manager Jeff Bridich. "He didn't have a spot on the club," Bridich noted. In other words, Bridich and company have lost all confidence that Jhoulys Chacin can produce at the major league level. It's unclear whether or not Chacin will now opt to have the shoulder surgery that he and the Rockies chose to avoid in favor of rest and rehabilitation. He's still just 27 years old, so there's still hope that Chacin can land on his feet with another big league club.