Chafin embraces reunion, ready to 'rock 'n' roll'

December 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck's Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click hereAnd subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Andrew Chafin could’ve delved into pitching reasons why his 2023 season ended poorly, from a career-high walk rate to fastballs getting pounded to a slight drop in effectiveness for his slider. But as he discussed his return to Detroit with Tigers reporters on Thursday, his explanation for his struggles was less technical than emotional, and refreshingly simple.

“I’m not going to use it as an excuse by any means, but I feel like just the sense of -- I don’t know if you want to call homesickness or what -- but just being that far from my family started to get to me a bit,” he said. “Kept beating myself up about that, and some other stuff going on. … But it was just stupid stuff between my ears that’s all in the past now, so we’re ready to rock 'n' roll.”

Chafin enjoyed his 2022 season in Detroit. He was a few hours’ drive from his farm near Massillon, Ohio. He was pitching well and pitching often, and he fit well into a young relief corps. His decision to opt out of his contract and hit free agency last winter was a business decision, and it eventually landed him much farther from home when he signed with Arizona for fairly similar terms to what he had opted out of in Detroit.

He returned to the Midwest at the August Trade Deadline, when the Diamondbacks sent him to Milwaukee, but a rough August left him trying to salvage a better stretch run. The Brewers' decision not to pick up Chafin's option year put him back on the market.

“It would be tough on anybody, really,” Chafin said of his struggles. “I’ve been pretty consistent my whole career, and that was like a smack in the face; a bit of a wake-up call: 'Hey, it ain’t always going to be that easy.' I feel like I can actually use that to my advantage, and now that I’ve learned how to work through some outstanding circumstances, if anything else arises in the future, it’s going to be a lot easier to get over it quickly and get back where I need to be.”

Once the Tigers were interested, Chafin jumped at the chance to get back to Detroit.

Family and farm, he said, “definitely played a role in the decision. As the kids get older, they start saying, ‘Daddy, I want you to come home,’ more and more, and it rips at the heart a little bit. I think this is a great situation for everybody.”

Chafin knows what he’s walking into, and the Tigers know what they’re getting, both the pitcher and the personality. They know he’s a different cat who keeps things loose, from his “Failed Starter” T-shirt collection for fellow relievers to his impact on a young group of relievers that became even younger last year without him.

Besides being another lefty with platoon versatility and multi-inning capability who can slot next to Tyler Holton, Chafin fits in Detroit.

“Yes, he brings a lot of presence,” president of baseball operations Scott Harris said Tuesday. “He brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of wit, and he’s very popular with the other guys on our team. I know for a fact that guys were excited to have him back, and I think he’s going to help us create that type of culture in the clubhouse that has a chance to be a strength for us.”

Chafin’s culture is unique in the baseball world. His offseason routine these days includes getting up at 4 a.m. and getting a head start on the day before hitting the farm around 5:30. He’s doing excavation work for a house he’s building. He’s looking into building a wedding venue on another property.

He lives in his RV during the season to avoid the hassle of finding short-term housing. By signing early, for the first time in four years, he doesn’t have to scramble to find a place for it. He booked the same campground he lived at near Detroit two years ago.