The Tigers announced Thursday that they’ve placed left-hander Andrew Chafin on the restricted list in advance of the team’s upcoming road series in Toronto. Right-hander Bryan Garcia has has his contract selected from Triple-A Toledo and been designated as a Covid-related replacement player for Chafin (meaning he can be removed from the 40-man roster and sent back to Toledo without needing to first pass through waivers).
Chafin, 32, has been one of the best relievers in a quietly solid Tigers bullpen this season, pitching to a 2.53 ERA with a 29.3% strikeout rate, a 7.5% walk rate and a 49.4% ground-ball rate. He’s playing the current season on a $5.5MM salary and has a $6.5MM player option for the 2023 season that, barring an injury or unexpected collapse, he seems likely to reject in favor of a return to free agency (and another, potentially more lucrative multi-year deal).
The majority of Major League teams have had to place at least one player on the restricted list in advance of series in Toronto this season, as unvaccinated professional athletes are prohibited from entering Canada to participate in their teams’ games. (The U.S., it should be pointed out, has a similar policy.) Other teams may well consider Chafin’s status when weighing potential trades over the next few days, though as we saw with the Yankees’ acquisition of Andrew Benintendi last night, it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker — even for teams in the American League East. (Of course, Benintendi is also opting to receive the Covid-19 vaccine following his trade to the Yankees, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post).
Taking Chafin’s place on the Tigers’ roster for the next few days, at least, will be the 27-year-old Garcia, who has pitched to a 2.90 ERA through 40 1/3 innings in Toledo so far. Garcia logged time with the Tigers in each of the past three seasons but has limped to a 6.12 ERA through 67 2/3 big league frames, due largely to a pedestrian strikeout rate (16%), lofty walk rate (12.6%) and penchant for serving up home runs (1.46 HR/9).
Depending on how Garcia fares, this could be viewed as yet another audition for him. Chafin, Michael Fulmer, Joe Jimenez and Alex Lange are among the Tigers relievers who’ve commanded trade interest with the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaching. At the very least, it seems fair to expect Fulmer and Chafin to be on the move in the coming days, as both can be free agents at season’s end. Jimenez, controlled through the 2023 season via arbitration, has a decent chance as well. Lange (five seasons of remaining club control) and closer Gregory Soto (three seasons) would surely require larger returns.