Hamels Acquisition Should Spell End of Chatwood’s Starting Days

Through roughly 3,000 individual games this season, there have been only 36 in which the starting pitcher has walked at least six batters (per Sahadev Sharma). Only 11 pitchers have issued as many as 50 total walks, and only three of those have surpassed 60 free passes.

With six more walks Thursday afternoon, Tyler Chatwood now lays claims to six such walk-heavy starts. He also became the first pitcher in MLB with 80 walks on the season. Chatwood is actually the only starter with with more than 64, sitting at a total of 85 bases on balls.

His latest poor start wasn’t the impetus for the Cubs’ acquisition of Rangers lefty Cole Hamels, but his spot in the rotation should be impacted by the move. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana are locked in place with no doubt. Mike Montgomery could slot back into the bullpen, but he’s acquitted himself well as a starter.

With Hamels now in the fold, the Cubs cannot continue to roll Chatwood out there every five days. His teammates might never admit it, but there’s a palpable sense of doom that surrounds his starts. As confident as the Cubs are in their ability to come back, Chatwood starting more or less ensures that they’ll need to do exactly that.

It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see last winter’s second-biggest acquisition continue in his current role while Monty goes back to the ‘pen, but that would be detrimental to a team that needs to keep its foot on the pedal. And even if he remains a starter for now, the Cubs still hope to have Yu Darvish and/or Drew Smyly active by at least the start of September.

Can Chatwood move to the bullpen then? Not when he’s walking nearly one batter per inning and presents a legitimate fear for a wild pitch at any point. So where does that leave the Cubs?

Absent the highly unlikely scenario that they eat the remaining $30 million or so of his three-year, $38 million deal, the Cubs may need to shift him into incredibly low-leverage situations in the hope that he regains some semblance of control. Of course, there’s also the possibility of a phantom injury that lands him on the DL, but that’s a temporary solution at best.

I’m not going to be the one to throw the first shovelful of dirt on Chatwood’s grave when it comes to his tenure with the Cubs, but I’m more than comfortable calling a standing eight count. How the team works that out remains to be seen and I’m glad I’m not the one having to make such decisions. For now, I’m just excited to see what Hamels can do with a move to a contender.

And I sincerely hope Chatwood can somehow figure things out and become a productive member of the rotation moving forward. The Cubs are paying him to do just that and he’s got two more years on his deal, so they might as well try to make it work. All that matters now, however, is that they field the best five starters possible from now through the end of the season.

What are your thoughts, dear reader: Do the Cubs keep Chatwood in the rotation or do they move him to the ‘pen in the hope that his stuff plays better in short stints? Or do they find a way to DL him or release him altogether?

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