Should Reds deal Chapman this offseason?
Plenty of clubs would be interested in acquiring flamethrowing closer
CINCINNATI -- Six years into his big league career, baseball fans -- namely Reds fans -- have not grown bored of watching closer Aroldis Chapman pitch. His 100-mph fastball has yet to become a tired act. Chapman has remained every bit as imposing to hitters in 2015 as he did when he burst on to the scene as a somewhat mysterious free agent out of Cuba in 2010.
Yet the retooling Reds are faced with a decision: Despite his being one of the best shows around, is this offseason the time to trade Chapman?
Chapman, who will turn 28 on Feb. 28, was an indispensable part of the Reds' three postseason runs in 2010, 2012-13. He has a 2.17 career ERA and 146 saves in 164 chances, with 546 strikeouts in only 319 innings.
Coming off a 98-loss season, the Reds are not expected to contend in 2016. That makes Chapman a pricey luxury.
Chapman earned $8.05 million in 2015 and will likely get a raise this offseason as he is eligible for arbitration for a third and final time. He is one season away from being a free agent.
During the summer, Chapman's name was frequently involved in trade rumors with multiple clubs -- including the D-backs, Astros and Nationals. This offseason, the D-backs, Red Sox, Tigers and Marlins are among teams seeking to add a power-armed closer. There is little doubt that president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty and freshly minted general manager Dick Williams will be listening to trade proposals from interested teams. There is even less doubt that it will take quite an offer of talent for the Reds to move their prized left-hander.
Three Major League GMs that spoke with MLB.com this week said the Reds have to trade Chapman before next season's July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, unless the club is winning. However, one of those GMs who spoke with the Reds had no feel for his availability.
In his 65 appearances this past season, Chapman had a 1.63 ERA, 33 saves in 36 chances and 116 strikeouts. He threw 66 1/3 innings and owned a 15.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio.
According to Statcast™, the 62 fastest pitches thrown in the Major Leagues this season all belonged to Chapman. His highest velocity was 103.92 mph on June 29 vs. the Twins. His fastball speed averaged just a tick under 100 mph at 99.98 mph -- also tops in the league.
Reds manager Bryan Price often held Chapman for traditional save situations, which there were few of as Cincinnati nosedived in the second half.
The top two closers in saves this season came from rivals in the National League Central. Mark Melancon saved 51 games for the Pirates and also threw 76 2/3 innings. Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals had 48 saves in 68 2/3 innings. The Mets' Jeurys Familia led all big league closers with 78 innings, while notching 43 saves.
The Reds have in-house options besides Chapman, like J.J. Hoover, who resuscitated his career in 2015 as a strong eighth-inning setup man. Jumbo Diaz had experience closing in the Minor Leagues and brings heat that approaches 100 mph.
Rookies like Michael Lorenzen and lefty Brandon Finnegan -- a July acquisition from the Royals in the Johnny Cueto trade -- have closer's stuff in the mid-to-high 90s. A veteran free-agent closer who would make less than Chapman should also not be ruled out as a short-term solution.
Of course, none of those options bring the stuff, electricity, effectiveness or marquee name power of Chapman. But taking the long view, moving him could be worth it if he brings players in return that can help the Reds get back to winning ways sooner than later.