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Baseball’s Most Traded Player

Once upon a time, there was a baseball player named Harry Simpson.

An outfielder-first baseman who batted left-handed, he played for 11 years in a nondescript career that ended with a .251 batting average, 76 home runs, and an unforgettable nickname.

A survivor of the Negro Leagues, he had one big year – with the 1956 Kansas City Athletics – but the distinction of being included in almost every trade or rumor that surfaced while he was active.

But “Suitcase” Simpson, as he was called, had nothing on Jesse Chavez.

Still active as he approaches his 41st birthday, Chavez would become the oldest man in the National League when the Atlanta Braves bring him back to their varsity.

A bespectacled right-hander known for his white glasses and ability to pitch in long relief, Chavez is traded more often than a common stock.

He’s not the guy who’s played with the most different teams – Edwin Jackson owns that at 14 – but he does own the record for being included in more trades than anyone else. Well-liked in the clubhouse and on the mound, he keeps popping up in places he’s been before.

Suffice to say he’ll soon start his sixth sojourn with the Atlanta Braves. Sixth!

The 6-1, 180-pound California began his odyssey with big-league baseball on June 5, 2001, when he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 39th round – which no longer exists – of the amateur draft. He didn’t sign but was drafted a year later in an even later round: the 42nd. Realizing that he was not in hot demand, he signed his first pro contract – with the Texas Rangers.

Then the odyssey began in earnest.

He was traded to Pittsburgh in 2006, to Tampa Bay in 2009, and to Atlanta one month later. He lasted only a half-season with the Braves before they shipped him to Kansas City in a four-player trade that brought them Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth at the 2010 trade deadline.

Chavez was then selected off waivers by Toronto, sold to the Oakland Athletics, and traded back to the Blue Jays – for Liam Hendriks no less – three years later.

The Jays sent him on to the Dodgers in a 2016 mid-season swap but the pitcher, perhaps tired of being a human ping-pong ball, took matters into his own hands by electing free agency.

After signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels, Chavez found himself a free agent again and signed his second one-year contract with the Angels. And guess what? He was back on the market the following fall.

He signed with the Texas Rangers in February but was traded to the Chicago Cubs just before the July deadline. On Oct. 29, 2018, Jesse Chavez declared free agency again. Big surprise!

The Rangers came calling and Chavez took the bait, this time lasting two years before leaving. He became a free agent, signing with the Angels after 2021 spring training started, but lasted only a month before drawing his release. In April, he signed with the Braves for the first time.

When that one-year contract expired, Chavez got an offer from the Chicago Cubs, signing on March 14, 2022. Just five weeks later, on April 21, the Cubs traded him back to Braves for Sean Newcomb, a left-hander who never mastered the strike zone.

In the last pre-deadline deal of 2022, the Braves sent him back to the Angels, along with Tucker Davidson, for closer Raisel Iglesias, a star for Atlanta ever since.

Before August was over, however, the Angels released Chavez from his halo, setting the stage for the pitcher to rejoin the Braves one day later. Selected off waivers on Aug. 30, Chavez still qualified for the playoffs. After the season, however, he also qualified for free agency.

Six days after Chavez reached that status, he returned to the Braves, where he spent all of 2023. Granted free agency again, the right-hander signed with the Chicago White Sox on Feb. 16. He lasted more than a month before the youth-oriented Sox decided to let the old man walk. The Braves watched the transaction with almost eager anticipation, scooping him up on a minor-league contract likely to become a major-league one.

Atlanta would have to cut another player to give Chavez a roster spot. Candidates include Jackson Stephens, a journeyman who served as a long man last year, and rookie outfielder Forrest Wall, a speed merchant recently relegated to No. 5 in the pecking order.

Once paid $5.7 million by the Angels, Chavez won’t make much more than the major-league minimum of $740,000 when the Braves bring him up. But the promise of post-season bonuses is too much to ignore. Not to mention the chance to go home again.

The most traded player in history might even be able to rent an apartment in Atlanta.

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