Chacin turns in a gem, but future now up in air

Right-hander was a revelation this season with good numbers at Petco

Chacin turns in a gem, but future now up in air

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Padres want Jhoulys Chacin back in their starting rotation next season. Chacin reiterated this week that the feeling is mutual.

Now, for the tricky part.

The veteran right-hander wrapped up his 2017 campaign Saturday afternoon with six innings of one-run ball in the Padres' come-from-behind, 3-2 victory in San Francisco. Now, Chacin, 29, will enter free agency on the heels of his best season in four years, having posted a 3.89 ERA in 180 1/3 innings. He struck out a career-high 153 hitters, as well.

"It's hard to tell," Chacin said of his future with the Padres' organization. "But, like I said before, I would be really happy to come back here."

It's a thin market this offseason, in terms of starting pitching. Having proven himself healthy for a full year, Chacin will have more than a few potential suitors in free agency.

But there are several reasons a return makes sense. Most notably, Chacin clearly loves pitching at Petco Park, where he posted a 1.79 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP in more than 100 home innings.

"He's been a valued person in the clubhouse and on the baseball field," said Padres manager Andy Green. "He's meant a lot to us. It was a very good year for him personally, a bounceback year. He showed what he can do still. I think he grew from some of the stuff we gave him, and I'm hopeful he's back with us."

Green clearly isn't the only Padre who feels that way.

"He was awesome," said catcher Austin Hedges, whose two-run ninth-inning double was the difference on Saturday. "He's our guy. Every time he went out, you knew what you would get."

Hedges' go-ahead two-run double

Added first baseman Wil Myers: "Every time I see his name in the lineup, I'm excited to play behind him. He goes right at hitters. He's not afraid of anything. For us to be able to bring a guy like that back, I think would be a lot of help for next year."

Ultimately that decision is between Chacin's camp and the Padres' front office. There's certainly room in the rotation. Among returning starters, only Clayton Richard has a spot locked up.

Chacin has also flourished under the tutelage of pitching coach Darren Balsley. The Padres brought Chacin on board with the intention of letting him throw more sliders, his premier out pitch. He did just that -- to great success.

Opponents hit .146 against the pitch, which Chacin used at a 34 percent clip -- up 13 percent from his previous career mark. Among pitchers with at least 200 results with their sliders, only Max Scherzer had a lower batting average against.

"I'm really happy here," Chacin said. "They've treated me really well. They gave me the opportunity, and that's what I was looking for when I signed."

Worth noting
• Righty reliever Carter Capps, whose season ended earlier this month because of a blood clot, underwent successful surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome this week. Doctors believe the surgery will alleviate the cause of the clot. The Padres expect Capps to be healthy by Spring Training.

• In Robbie Erlin (Tommy John), Colin Rea (Tommy John), Matt Strahm (left knee), Christian Friedrich (arthroscopic elbow) and Jarred Cosart (arthroscopic elbow), the Padres have a full rotation's worth of starting pitchers whose seasons ended due to various surgeries. On Saturday, Green noted that, barring any further setbacks, all five are expected to be healthy for the start of 2018 camp.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.