Before we begin, let’s flash back to the 2004 MLB season. The Oakland A’s finished the year with a 91-71 record, and placed second in the American League West (1 game behind the Angels). Prior to the start of the season, the A’s announced that they had reached an agreement with 3B Eric Chavez that would keep him in the organization for six-years, or possibly seven if they picked up his option for 2011. The deal was worth $66 million over six years, and Chavez became the highest paid player on the team. The deal, which was very un-A’s like, was surprising considering that the A’s had let players like Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, and Johnny Damon go because of contract demands.
If you go further back to 2003, when the A’s won the AL West with a 96-66 record, you’ll see the A’s had the choice of signing either SS Miguel Tejada or Chavez to a long-term deal. The financially troubled team could not afford both, so the A’s went with Chavez, who they thought would be the face of the franchise. In 2003, Chavez led the team in homers with 29, while Tejada led the team in RBIs with 106. A’s GM Billy Beane valued Chavez’s defense and offensive production, so the team said good-bye to Tejada following the end of the 2003 campaign.
Okay, now let’s take a look at how the Chavez deal panned out.
In 2004, his first season under his new contract, Chavez hit .276/.397/.501 with 29 home runs and 77 RBIs. Chavez played in only 125 games that season due to injury, but one can only imagine the type of season he would’ve had if he had remained healthy all year. The following year, in 2005, Chavez hit .269/.329/.466 with 27 home runs and 101 RBIs. He played in 160 games that year. In 2006, however, Chavez’s playing days took a hit when he battled forearm tendinitis and shoulder problems all season long. In 137 games, Chavez hit just .241/.351/.435 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs. Though the A’s made the playoffs that year, the A’s slugger hit just .231 in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.
These past three years, 2007-10, have not been kind to Chavy. In 2007, the A’s 3B hit just .240/.306/.446 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. He played in just 90 games before undergoing season-ending surgery. In 2008, Chavez played in 23 games and hit .247/.295/.393 with 2 home runs and 14 RBIs. He also underwent surgery that year as well. In 2009, Chavez played in just 8 games, and hit .100/.129/.133 with one RBI.
Prior to the start of this season, the A’s had Chavez switch from third (where he won six-consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 2001-2006) to first-base. This move was supposed to help Chavez keep some of the pressure off his back and shoulder, but after an entire Spring Training, the A’s decided to pencil Chavez in as their everyday designated-hitter. While they thought Chavez’s glove was still golden, they believed having Chavez as DH would give him the best chance to play everyday.
In 33 games, however, the A’s quickly realized that Chavez was not completely ‘healthy,’ as they had previously thought prior to the season. Chavez revealed that he’d been battling with neck problems for a majority of the year, and that his hitting suffered because of it. It was later revealed that Chavez had two bulging disks in his neck. In just 33 games this season, Chavez hit .234/.276/.333 with one home run and 10 RBIs. The A’s DH made several attempts at rejoining the team before the end of the season, and was even slated to return in September, but nothing did come to fruition.
We now flash forward to present day, where the A’s are left with another option: will they pick up Chavez’s $12.5 million option for 2011 or will they buy him out for $3 million. Obviously, the A’s won’t be picking up Chavez’s option, and are certain to go with the buy-out for $3 million. So, I guess my question for all of you is, who would you have signed after the 2003 season? Chavez or Tejada? Keep in mind that Billy Beane is no fortune teller. Not even the biggest pessimists out there could’ve predicted the kind of injury history Chavez has had these past four years.
For further evaluation, I put together this table for you to look at. The table below shows the averages for both players since the 2004 season.
Now, here’s a look at their career numbers:
*But in all honesty, I probably would’ve selected Chavez as the face of my franchise as well. When healthy, Chavez was among the best players in the league, and he’s totally a class-act from what I’ve heard about him. Make no mistake, A’s fans, this dude really gave the organization his all during his time with the A’s.