Third baseman Eric Chavez fields a ball for the Yankees during the playoffs. Chavez will bring his defensive prowess to Arizona in 2013 after signing a one year deal. Image: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Diamondbacks Find Great Value in Eric Chavez Signing

Just two days before Eric Chavez’s 35th birthday, the left handed hitting third baseman inked a one year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Consider it a nice $3 million present for the former first round draft pick and a valuable addition to the Diamondbacks as they seek a return to the top of the N.L. West in 2013.

The Diamondbacks have seemingly been active for the better part of the off season and their name has been listed in everything from looking to sign catcher Rod Barajas to a blockbuster deal with three and four teams that would see the departure of, who else, Justin Upton. But without exhausting too much energy on a huge deal, Kevin Towers made a terrific move, grabbing Chavez off the market.

Eric Chavez played for 13 seasons on the Oakland A’s before spending the last two with the New York Yankees. After starting his career by playing in at least 115 games in eight consecutive seasons- and five straight over 150 games- Chavez was hampered by injuries over the next few years playing in 90, 23, 8, 33, and 58 games from 2007-2011. However, 2012 proved to be one of his more productive seasons offensively playing in 112 games and posting a .281 BA/.348 OBP/.496 SLG. He added 16 home runs (the most since 2007) and 12 doubles in 278 at-bats filling in for the oft-injured Alex Rodriguez. Proving that when healthy, he is still productive at the plate.

As the everyday third baseman for the A’s, Chavez won six consecutive gold gloves from 2001-2006 and will provide the D’Backs with a much needed defensive strength on the hot corner. Now in the latter part of his career, Chavez will platoon with right handed hitting Chris Johnson mostly playing based on match-ups. Johnson will be playing in his first full season for the D’Backs after being acquired from the Astros in July last season and will hopefully use Chavez as a mentor to help him improve at his position. Johnson has had problems defensively thus far in his career never posting a fielding percentage above .940 (2012). One would have to think that with coach Matt Williams and Chavez there to help Johnson on a daily basis, we will see a vast improvement in his defense.

As far as estimating just how much Chavez may be involved, according to AZ Central’s Nick Piecoro, the team is hoping for 300-400 plate appearances. They will be able to use him as a DH in interleague play this season as well as use his left handed hitting to their advantage in match-ups. Chavez also has limited experience at first base in the event that neither Paul Goldschmidt nor Eric Hinske are available. Piecoro does mention this may be wishful thinking as he has averaged just 204 plate appearances over the last three years.

If I were to grade this signing, I would say that this may be the best signing the D’Backs make this off-season. A one year, $3 million deal is a low-risk, medium to high reward for the club and the organization could use his veteran leadership in the clubhouse. The signing shows the team is cautiously optimistic that he will remain healthy in 2013. It is certainly encouraging that he is coming off a season in which he played in 112 games and he has always posted a solid on-base percentage (career .343 OBP) which is a big need for the D’Backs.  While there have been a few of Towers’ recent trades that have had me scratching my head a little bit, this free agent signing should make Diamondbacks fans excited about our third basemen heading into 2013.

Stay tuned for the final day of the Winter Meetings as the Diamondbacks now sit with one too many infielders and also have room to pick two players in the Rule 5 Draft set to take place tomorrow afternoon.

Follow me on Twitter at @ndougherty313 and our team at @venomstrikes.

Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Eric Chavez

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