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Chatwood's trajectory not so clear cut

How will Rockies righty's two Tommy John surgeries be weighed vs. Coors success?
MLB.com @jonmorosi

Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are poised to hit free agency this offseason. Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka can opt out of their contracts. Based on the availability of those names alone, the upcoming starting pitching market will be more robust than the one we just witnessed.

And then there's Tyler Chatwood, who makes his season debut for the Rockies on Wednesday in Milwaukee. He's perhaps the most fascinating case study of all.

Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are poised to hit free agency this offseason. Johnny Cueto and Masahiro Tanaka can opt out of their contracts. Based on the availability of those names alone, the upcoming starting pitching market will be more robust than the one we just witnessed.

And then there's Tyler Chatwood, who makes his season debut for the Rockies on Wednesday in Milwaukee. He's perhaps the most fascinating case study of all.

Chatwood will pitch at 27 years old for the entire 2017 season, meaning he's almost the optimal age for a free agent. And while his numbers on the road were far better than at home, his overall performance last year -- 3.87 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, 158 innings -- was exemplary for someone who pitches at Coors Field half the time.

In fact, according to Zach Lupica of MLB Network, Chatwood's season was only the 10th in Rockies history in which a pitcher posted an ERA under 4.00 while throwing at least 150 innings. Since Colorado's debut season in 1993, no Major League franchise has had fewer such seasons.

So this offseason, Chatwood should be looking at a lucrative four- or five-year contract, right?

Well, not necessarily. Chatwood has had Tommy John surgery. Twice.

But rather than view that as a demerit, Chatwood has attained legendary status within the T.J. fraternity. According to research through the Tommy John surgery database maintained by Jon Roegele (@MLBPlayerAnalys), Chatwood is one of only two pitchers to produce a season of at least 150 innings after undergoing the operation a second time.

Chris Capuano, who did so twice, is the other.

The vast majority of two-time Tommy John recipients who have returned to MLB -- Daniel Hudson, Joakim Soria, Brian Wilson, Sean Burnett, et al -- have done so as relief pitchers.

Chatwood is an outlier, and MLB general managers are trained to be wary of outliers. Then again, Chatwood was durable enough to make it through nearly a full Major League season in 2016 in the game's most physically demanding environment.

The best outcome, then, could be that Chatwood signs an extension to remain in Denver beyond this season. The Rockies' front office is fond of Chatwood, and the team's athletic training staff supervised his re-entry to the Majors. Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich has praised Chatwood's competitiveness and accountability, while noting that the right-hander appears increasingly comfortable with his mechanics.

Chatwood already has defied the odds of excelling as a Major League starter following a second Tommy John surgery. With one more solid season, he could shatter financial expectations, too.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network. He has also covered baseball for FOX Sports, the Detroit Free Press and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Colorado Rockies, Tyler Chatwood