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Cubs free agent target: Tyler Chatwood

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Here’s a possible lower-cost acquisition for the rotation.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

While most Cubs fan eyes are focused on Alex Cobb as a likely target for the Cubs’ rotation given his connections with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, righthander Tyler Chatwood might be another pitcher to look at as free agency ramps up over the next few weeks.

Chatwood was the second-round pick of the Angels in the 2008 draft (in that round, the Cubs took a college pitcher named Aaron Shafer who never pitched in the majors) and was traded to the Rockies after the 2011 season for Chris Iannetta.

He’s had two Tommy John surgeries, the first while he was still in high school, the second in the middle of the 2014 season. He missed all of 2015, came back and had a solid 2016 (12-9, 3.87 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, 3.6 bWAR), but was somewhat less effective in 2017 (8-15, 4.69 ERA, 1.442 WHIP, but still 2.2 bWAR). He pitched so poorly from late June to early August (9.67 ERA, 2.194 WHIP in six outings) that he was demoted from the starting rotation. When he returned to the rotation in September, he was much improved — five starts, 2.92 ERA, 1.419 WHIP.

Like a lot of Rockies starters, he has had much more success away from Coors Field. In 2016 he posted a 6.12 ERA in 14 starts in Denver, with 11 home runs allowed, and a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts on the road, with only four home runs given up.

His home/road splits weren’t as extreme in 2017, but he was still much better away from Coors Field: 6.01 ERA in 17 appearances (12 starts) at home (70⅓ innings), 3.49 ERA in 16 appearances (13 starts) on the road (77⅓ innings). The road starts in 2017 included a complete-game shutout against the Giants in San Francisco.

Chatwood turns 28 next month. He made $4.4 million in 2017, and he’s two years younger than Cobb. If the Cubs are looking for a lower-cost starter than Cobb, who might merit a four-year, $50 million deal, Chatwood just might be the guy. He might be signable for four years at somewhere between $35 million and $40 million, and he might just be the kind of pitcher who’s more successful once he gets away from the thin air of Denver.