CHICAGO -- Albertin Chapman is returning to Wrigley Field, and you know what that means. It's about time for another World Series celebration, right?Don't waste your breath talking about the Indians' center fielder who wrapped that home run around the left-field foul pole in Game 7. Or the manager who
CHICAGO -- Albertin Chapman is returning to Wrigley Field, and you know what that means. It's about time for another World Series celebration, right?
Don't waste your breath talking about the Indians' center fielder who wrapped that home run around the left-field foul pole in Game 7. Or the manager who kept putting Chapman into uncomfortable situations, earlier and earlier in games.
Thanks to Chapman's work in the bottom of the ninth inning in Cleveland -- pitching as he tried to fight off tears -- as well as the tag-team effort of C.J. Edwards and Mike Montgomery in the 10th, the Cuban with baseball's biggest arm is going to get his World Series ring before the Yankees face the Cubs on Friday afternoon. That moment should be all joy, no awkwardness or angst.
After all, it's not often that you can experience a win/win/win/win situation. Usually win/win is as far as we can go.
But when you consider the Cubs, Yanks, Chapman and Joe Maddon's 2017 bullpen, there's a real circle of happy circumstances. Let's count the wins:
1. The Yankees exchange free-agent-to-be Chapman for 19-year-old shortstop Gleyber Torres, who is currently ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, last July. Theo Epstein loved Torres, but with Addison Russell and Javier Baez already on board, he dealt him to upgrade the bullpen. It was all about October.
2. Chapman makes Epstein's investment pay off, earning four saves and two wins in the postseason as the Cubs won their first World Series championship since 1908.
- Chapman gets extremely rich, leveraging his ability throw 103- and 104-mph fastballs into a five-year, $86 million contract with the Yankees. (Note: This could also be interpreted as another win for the Yanks, as they reassemble one of the best bullpens in the Major Leagues, with the left-handed Chapman closing behind the right-handed Dellin Betances).
4. The Cubs gracefully move on from Chapman to acquire another dominating closer, Wade Davis. He comes at the cost of 25-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler, who became expendable after the addition of free agents Jason Heyward and Benjamin Zobrist prior to the 2016 season. And unlike Chapman, the Cubs didn't have to make a long-term commitment to Davis. They have him for one year, so they can see how well he fits before deciding to re-sign him or potentially reap Draft pick compensation if they give him a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere.
Here's the thing: Davis is one of the very few closers who could replace Chapman without a missed step, and he is doing exactly that. He hasn't been scored on in 14 appearances, including a scoreless inning each of the past three days.
Davis served as a setup man for the Royals before taking over the closer role when Greg Holland's elbow became an issue in the second half of 2015, and Davis has quietly joined Chapman at the top of the game.
Here's how they've stacked up since the start of 2014:
Davis: 199 games, 195 IP, 21-4, 54 saves, 1.11 ERA, 0.872 WHIP, 374 ERA+
Chapman: 189 games, 188 2/3 IP, 9-8, 111 saves, 1.67 ERA, 0.959 WHIP, 240 ERA+
Whichever closer you're looking at, those are eye-popping totals. Davis doesn't quite match Chapman in terms of strikeouts per nine innings -- he's at 11.5, compared to Chapman's 15.6 -- but he has been even more reliable.
Unlike Chapman, Davis did not have to address a suspension for domestic violence and hasn't said anything provocative about how Maddon is using him. It's early, sure, but Davis seems as drama-free in the clubhouse and community as he is on the mound, limiting opportunities for opponents.
When Chapman signed with the Yankees in mid-December, he second-guessed how Maddon used him in the postseason, specifically citing the stretch where threw a combined 97 pitches in World Series Games 5, 6 and 7.
In his strongest quote on a conference call with reporters, which was translated from Spanish, Chapman said Maddon "abused me a bit on how much he made me pitch." He said he was tired in Game 7 -- when Rajai Davis tied the game on a 97-mph fastball, Chapman's slowest fastball of the season, according to Statcast™ -- because Maddon had brought him into Game 6 with the Cubs leading 7-2.
This added kerosene to the fire for Chicago fans who had already been critical of Maddon. But don't look for anything but hugs this weekend.
Chapman told MLB.com's Bryan Hoch that he and Maddon have maintained their "good relationship," and cited a friendly conversation when he joined the Cubs in visiting the White House in January. Maddon's skin is as thick as deep-dish pizza. He's not carrying a grudge.
And Davis? He can only hope he's in Chapman's shoes next offseason, celebrating both a major contract and a championship.
Epstein could stop the closer shuffle by extending Davis' contract, of course. He hasn't been inclined to invest heavily in relievers in the past, but it's easier to close a potential hole than fill one after it's opened, even when you're on a winning streak with your decision-making.
Phil Rogers is a national columnist for MLB.com.