Chicago Cubs trade reliever Andrew Chafin to the Oakland Athletics for 2 minor-league prospects — a departure that hits hard in clubhouse

Chicago Cubs trade reliever Andrew Chafin to the Oakland Athletics for 2 minor-league prospects — a departure that hits hard in clubhouse
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Chicago Cubs left-hander Andrew Chafin endeared himself to fans for his retro look, laid-back demeanor and engaging personality on social media since joining the organization before last year’s trade deadline.

His impact within the Cubs clubhouse can’t be understated either. But less than a year after first joining the organization, Chafin is on the move.

The Cubs on Monday night traded Chafin to the Oakland Athletics for two minor-league prospects: Triple-A outfielder Greg Deichmann and low-A right-handed starting pitcher Daniel Palencia. The team announced the deal after their 6-5 comeback victory against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

The move capped a wild night that saw Willson Contreras deliver a tying solo homer in the eighth and Javier Báez came off the bench with a sore left heel to deliver a bases-loaded, walk-off single in the ninth.

Báez didn’t hold back celebrating the clutch hit off the Reds’ Amir Garrett, given their history. Báez glared and yelled at Garrett while slowly making his way toward first base, moving his bat back and forth in a sweeping motion before heaving it in the air. The animosity between Báez and Garrett can be traced back to 2018 and also featured a benches-clearly incident earlier this season in Cincinnati.

“These guys have continued to fight until the end of most games we’ve been a part of,” manager David Ross said. “I think the word had kind of spread (about the trade) throughout the dugout at some point, so it was nice just to see these guys continue to stay focused on the game at hand and fight for one another.”

When Ross stopped Chafin after the Cubs came off the field following the win, the veteran joked: “One bad outing and I get traded?”

“He made me laugh pretty good at that one,” Ross said. “This guy’s a culture changer. This guy’s been a leader in the bullpen. The way he takes the ball, right- or left(-handed hitter), it doesn’t matter what situation I’m bringing him in, it’s the same stuff. It’s the same heartbeat.

“We’re going to miss him.”

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who allowed five runs in 4⅓ innings Monday, also spoke highly of Chafin, calling him an “unbelievable teammate, unbelievable human being overall.”

“The energy, the positivity he brings in every single day, you can’t replace it,” Hendricks said. “Oakland is real lucky in who they’re getting.”

Losing clubhouse leaders and good players is the unfortunate byproduct of a team underperforming and becoming a trade-deadline seller. This trade isn’t expected to be the last the Cubs make before Friday’s 3 p.m. deadline. It’s the unpleasant reality Hendricks and his teammates face in the coming days. That could include key pieces from the 2016 World Series title team getting traded.

“I think it’s definitely going to be somewhat of a shock, and it’s going to take a little time to adjust to somebody that’s had a huge impact on this organization,” Hendricks said of that possibility. “So we’ll have to wait and see going forward.”

The Cubs’ minor-league acquisitions are a mix of high upside and potential big-league readiness. Deichmann, 26, was the A’s 2017 second-round pick. The left-handed-hitting Deichmann is batting .300 with a .432 on-base percentage and .881 OPS with 20 extra-base hits in 59 games with Triple-A Las Vegas. He came into the season rated the A’s No. 9 prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America.

He has dealt with injuries the last few years, which include a broken hamate bone and right shoulder injury. Deichmann performed well in the Arizona Fall League in 2019 and played at Oakland’s alternate site last season.

Palencia, a 21-year-old Venezuelan, signed with the A’s in February 2020. Palencia’s fastball reportedly was hitting 97 to 99 mph during extended spring training this year and touched triple digits before he joined low-A Stockton in June, with whom he had a 6.91 ERA and 1.605 WHIP in six starts. FanGraphs ranks Palencia as the Athletics’ No. 12 prospect.

Chafin, 31, became one of Ross’ go-to relievers in high-leverage spots, a role he thrived in, highlighted by a 0.9 wins above replacement that ranks in the top 10 among National League relievers. Chafin, who re-signed with the Cubs in February after being traded to the team in August, has a 2.06 ERA and 17 holds in 39⅓ innings.

Chafin has a $5.25 million mutual option for 2022 with a $500,000 buyout.

“His experience of pitching in big situations and a really good division, equal splits righties and lefties, he does a nice job of getting out both so it’s a guy at the back of the bullpen and he’s not necessarily a matchup guy, especially with three-batter minimum, that matters,” Ross said this month. “He’s a really simple-minded man that goes out and just wants to compete and give his best. And that plays really well in a day and age where sometimes you can overthink things. Simple mindedness goes a long way.”

Chafin departs as one of the most effective lefty relievers in baseball this season. He held a scoreless-innings streak of 24⅓ innings from May 8 to July 24, which was the longest active in the majors when it ended and represented the longest streak by a reliever this season and second-longest overall behind New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom (31 innings). Chafin has allowed runs in only four of his 43 appearances this season.

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