Upgrades by D-backs led Chavez to return
Arizona's commitment to winning is key reason veteran is back for another year
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When he called Eric Chavez after the 2013 regular season ended to offer him a contract for 2014, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers received an interesting response.
"The first thing I told Kevin was that if I was going to come back, I wanted a realistic chance of winning and going to the playoffs," Chavez said. "I just asked him, 'Are you as comfortable going into this offseason as you were last offseason?' Because I was feeling really good going into last year. I mean, nobody knew the Dodgers were going to do what they did. He said, 'No.' And I said, 'Neither am I.'"
Knowing how important a piece Chavez was to the D-backs as a left-handed hitter with some power, Towers did not want to lose the veteran to another team.
"OK, just give me an opportunity before you sign or talk to anybody," Towers told Chavez that day. "Because we're going to try and make some moves."
So Chavez sat back and watched as the D-backs tried to woo outfielder Carlos Beltran before eventually losing out to the Yankees. He saw the team trade for power-hitting outfielder Mark Trumbo and closer Addison Reed.
"I was waiting," Chavez said. "A lot of teams were calling, but I was very cautious about getting into negotiations with anybody, because this was always where I wanted to be."
So just before Christmas, Chavez agreed to a one-year deal that will pay him $3.5 million, a $500,000 raise from his first season in Arizona.
"I was surprised by the lengths they were willing to go to get some players," Chavez said. "It just told me how committed they were. Even though they didn't get everyone they went for, trading for Mark and for Addy, it showed they were committed, and I think at that point it was enough for me."
At age 36, Chavez's body no longer allows him to play every day, a fact he readily admits.
The problem is that he was so effective when he was in the lineup last year that manager Kirk Gibson found it hard to resist playing him often, maybe too often as it turned out, because Chavez ended up spending time on the disabled list twice.
Chavez had an .810 OPS last year, and Gibson will limit him this year to no more than two days in a row in the lineup, if that.
Also, expect Chavez to adopt more of a leadership role in the clubhouse this year.
"I think anyone that's played with him will tell you he's one of the best teammates they've ever had," veteran second baseman Aaron Hill said. "But even more this year because I think he's more comfortable around the guys. Obviously it's tough the first year with the team to be vocal and kind of be that guy. But he is so good talking with a Minor Leaguer or a guy that has 10 years in. It doesn't matter. He loves baseball. You see that passion every time you're in the cage with him, and when you have a guy like that, with the career he's had, it can only benefit you as a team."
Chavez still dreams of playing in his first World Series. He's played in the postseason seven times and twice reached the American League Championship Series before falling short of the Fall Classic.
"I've never been to the World Series, and that's ultimately what I'm all about -- I want to win," Chavez said.
Though most players look for multiyear deals, Chavez prefers at this stage of his career to take it year by year, and he said he told Towers that when the GM offered him a two-year deal this winter.
"It's very peaceful for me," Chavez said. "I already have that comfort. I don't need it. I like to be able to re-evaluate at the end of the season."
Just like last season, Chavez is approaching 2014 like this will be the final one of his career, even though it may not be.
"In my mind, just this year," Chavez said, when asked how many more years he planned on playing. "I approach it as this is my last year just to make sure that I enjoy it. It keeps me fresh, and then at the end of the year, I'll just get together with my wife and we'll re-evaluate and see where we're at."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.