By all accounts, Eric Chavez is a great guy. He was also a great ballplayer before injuries derailed his career, causing him to play just 212 games between 2007 and 2011.
Chavez, 36, announced his retirement Wednesday after 17 seasons in the big leagues, and he did so with one final classy gesture. He left $1 million on the table, which the Arizona Diamondbacks would have owed him had he just sat on the disabled list the rest of the season.
He played 44 games for the D-backs in 2014 until a knee injury sidelined him. Chavez was due the rest of the $3.5 million contract he signed in the offseason, but he told CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that his conscience wouldn't let him take the money and not play.
Chavez said he wouldn't have felt right taking money for sitting his last days on the disabled list with the knee injury that finally felled him, years after refining his swing and reinventing himself as one of baseball's best bench players. He enjoyed his last years as a role player on Yankees teams filled with big names, then later took less to play and stay in Arizona, where the family man makes his home. While he was blessed with outsized talent and movie-star looks, it served him well to be just off the cusp of the limelight, first as a star of a small-market team and later a bench player with that storied team in New York.
"I'm very lucky," Chavez said. "I just enjoyed competing and being on the field. There's nothing like winning at the major-league level."
Chavez made $83 million during his big-league career, but he probably could have had more. He was one of the few homegrown Oakland Athletics stars of the early 2000s to sign an extension there for less money than he could have gotten as a free agent.
He finishes his career with 260 homers and 902 RBIs. Chavez hit .268/.342/.475 and won six gold gloves for his play at third base. Injuries took over the narrative of Chavez's career so much that it might be hard to remember how good he was during his younger years with the Oakland Athletics.
He had three consecutive 100-RBI seasons from 2001-2003 and had a combined WAR of 15.5 in those three seasons. He also hit more than 25 homers each season from 2000-2005.
From CBS Sports:
"He had an amazing career," said A's GM Billy Beane, the famed Moneyball architect who is so close to Chavez that folks around the Oakland baseball scene often viewed him and Chavez as big and little brother. "Quite frankly, had injuries not hit at the wrong time, he was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. If you look at what he did to age 26, you could see him ending up (in Cooperstown)."
Chavez's post-playing career will likely lead to managing or coaching. He's been grooming himself for the role for a few years now. People in the media who covered him will also tell you Chavez has the knowledge and charm to become a broadcaster.
Whichever path he chooses, it sounds like Chavez won't need that last million bucks.
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