January is really a wonderful time to be a baseball fan. Although there are usually a few odd impact moves left to be finalized (what the hell, Astros?), most days leave us with radio silence as reporters move from agent leaks to guesses punctured by "could" "option" and "possible." This was on display just last week, when CBS' Jon Heyman tweeted this quick little shot in the middle of an otherwise slow news day:
#mariners an option for endy chavez. the .270 career hitter has hit .271 the last 2 years for m's— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 12, 2015
Ah yes, exactly the name you wanted to hear in connection with the 2015 Seattle Mariners. Now the best part about a tweet like this is that it contains nothing that anyone could fully disagree with, and I don't mean this as a knock on Heyman. Yes, actually, the Mariners could be an option for current free agent Endy Chavez. All things considered, that isn't some wild guess, as he has spent the better part of the last two seasons up and down through the team's system. And he's even been hitting around his career averages during that time--so if the Mariners' front office ignores every other statistic besides batting average, he's a solid pickup.
Now, we need to be fair. This tweet came in the slow days between the Zobrist/Escobar trade and the Max Scherzer madness. Aside from little rumors floating here and there around the edges of the league, there wasn't much going on--save for what was going on down south with MLB players participating in the Winter Leagues. In fact, one day before Heyman's tweet, news broke that Endy Chavez had reached the second all-time mark for semifinals hits in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP), with 208.
The article doesn't mention how many games it took for Endy to get all 208 hits, but a quick summary from Wikipedia sheds a little light on how the Venezuelan league operates:
The league houses eight teams in one single division and plays two round robin league phases and a playoff final (as the winterleagues in the Dominican Rep. and Colombia do). Currently, the teams play 63 games, 9 games against each of the other 7 teams, from October to December in the first league phase. The top five teams move on to another round robin league phase of 16 games per team in January known as the semifinals.
The "Round Robin" phases are not unlike the World Cup qualifying rounds, which pit every team against one another in a non-elimination tournament until making it to the second round. There is no way Endy racked up 208 hits in 16 games, so I'm going to guess the article is talking about all 79 games in the first and second rounds. Still, that's an average of two and a half hits every single game, and even though the competition in the Venezuelan Leauge isn't at the Major League level, that's ridiculous for a 36 year old. Oh, and 28 of them were doubles, with five triples and five dingers.
In short, Endy Chavez is tearing up Venezuela right now, and scouts are paying attention. They are, assuredly, taking it all in with a grain of salt--this won't rewrite the book on Endy as much as it may convince a few naysayers that he still has at least a few drops of gas left in the tank for a buy-low minor league deal. I'm guessing that Heyman heard something about Endy's performance in Venezuela, connected the dots from the past two seasons, and made an educated observation. It's even possible a Mariners contact gave him a "sure" when asked about Endy, a "Sure" not unlike "Sure, I'll eat lunch today," or "Sure, we would like to win more baseball games than not next season." The Mariners very well could be interested, and I don't mean to doubt Heyman. But the Mariners are interested in a lot of things.
Still, a few hours later it was oh god no
According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, re-signing with the Mariners is an option for Endy Chavez...This would be a depth signing for Seattle.
Endy Chávez, quien se declaró agente libre en noviembre, maneja entre sus opciones a los Marineros, el equipo para el que jugó en las últimas dos temporadas, reportó este lunes CBS Sports.
Of course, the Mariners may not end up signing Endy Chavez at all. Despite the fact that he played in 80 games last season when the team failed to procure actual outfield depth, Jack Z and crew have been doing things a bit differently than their font-size caricature from previous seasons, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the M's go in a completely different direction altogether. Remember--this was the front office that was supposed to be too inept to land Robinson Cano, that didn't know how to develop young talent, and was going to trade Felix because they were so lost in trying to build anything sustainable. Just because he's been there doesn't mean he will be again.
At the end of the day, we're talking about a minor league deal with a team that actually has eight outfielders on their 40-man, seven of whom would realistically see playing time before an Endy Chavez callup. Many of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the guy, but it's pretty clear that he's 36 years old with a defensive liability and no power. While he admittedly performed without disaster last season, the Mariners didn't choose to stick with him after the trade deadline, knowing full well that Endy is a walking band-aid that doesn't rip as easily as the cheap store-brand ones.
And yet, that worry is there--that lingering cough that manifests itself in Lloyd's noted admiration ("Endy is a pro. You can talk about all of the sabermetric stuff and WAR stuff. Endy Chavez is a baseball player through and through. He gets it done.") and the club's fear of losing a contract before the June 1st minor-league opt-out date. Endy Chavez signing a minor-league deal with the M's has started to feel like something of a yearly tradition, and while it doesn't mean he would ever make it up to the majors, the fear sits there, eating away toward what seems like only the inevitable.
So is Endy Chavez going to be a part of the Seattle Mariners organization in 2015? We don't know, and like a visit to the doctor awaiting test results, all we have are a few symptoms that could really be anything. Don't self diagnose. It's no use getting worked up about it, but then again, I'm the one that just wrote 1,100 words about Endy Chavez in January, so I can't really talk.