Chapman to Yanks? You better relieve it!
Deal potentially sets up dominant trifecta in back end of New York's bullpen
NEW YORK -- The Yankees now boast the makings of what could be the most imposing bullpen in baseball, having acquired hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman from the Reds on Monday in exchange for four Minor League prospects.
Chapman is set to join left-hander Andrew Miller and right-hander Dellin Betances in the late innings, giving the Yankees the top three strikeout relievers in the Majors and setting up a trio that could significantly shorten games next season.
"The intent is to have an exciting bullpen, as we did this past year," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "It would be pretty exciting if it was even better than it was last year."
Cincinnati received right-handed pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda in the deal for the 27-year-old Chapman, who posted a 1.63 ERA in 65 appearances last season. MLBPipeline.com had Jagielo (No. 6) and Davis (No. 10) ranked among the Yankees' top 30 prospects.
Chapman was a National League All-Star in each of the past four seasons, but his trade value significantly decreased this month after a pending trade to the Dodgers was called off when allegations of domestic violence surfaced.
"Certainly there are some serious issues here that are in play," Cashman said. "I think it's certainly reflected in some of the acquisition price. There's risk, and I understand that."
It remains unclear if Chapman will face discipline from Major League Baseball regarding an October incident in Davie, Fla., during which Chapman admitted to police that he fired eight gunshots into a garage after an argument during which his girlfriend alleged that he choked her. His free-agent status could also be affected, as players do not accrue service time during a suspension for domestic violence.
Chapman was neither arrested nor charged with a crime. Major League Baseball has yet to complete its investigation under the new domestic violence policy, but Cashman said that the Yankees conducted their own internal investigation, which satisfied them enough to move forward with the trade.
"We've done as much due diligence on the subject at hand as we possibly can, and we've completed the transaction based on a lot of that due diligence," Cashman said.
Reds president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty said that four teams were in the final running for Chapman, and that discussions with the Yankees sparked at the Winter Meetings and heated up on Christmas Eve. The allegations and subsequent collapse of the Dodgers trade lowered the Reds' return.
"Given the circumstances that currently exist, I think the price point on acquisition has been modified," Cashman said. "We felt this was an opportunity for us to add a big arm to our bullpen, even though there are some things that are unresolved and we will respect that process as it plays out."
After earning $8.05 million in 2015, Chapman is due for another sizable raise this winter, as he is eligible for arbitration for a third and final time. However, if Chapman should serve a lengthy suspension in 2016, it may delay his service clock long enough that he would remain under team control in '17.
Of the four players sent to Cincinnati, only the 28-year-old Cotham has appeared in the Majors, having compiled a 6.52 ERA in 12 appearances this year. Davis, 22, finished the season with Double-A Trenton and had been mentioned as a depth rotation candidate for the upcoming campaign.
Jagielo, 23, was the Yankees' first-round selection in the 2013 Draft and was an Eastern League All-Star this past season at Trenton, but he missed the team's final 78 games due to a right knee injury. Renda, 24, hit .270 in 73 games with Trenton after being acquired by the Yankees from the Nationals on June 11 in exchange for right-hander David Carpenter.
Chapman is the only pitcher in Major League history with four seasons of at least 30 saves and 100 strikeouts, having done so in each of the past four years. Only Eric Gagne (2002-04) and Billy Wagner (1999, 2003, '10) have had as many as three such seasons in their careers.
Over six Major League seasons, Chapman has gone 19-20 with 146 saves, a 2.17 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 324 relief appearances. Since 2010, he leads all Major League relievers with 15.40 strikeouts per nine innings, and his 546 strikeouts ranks second only to Craig Kimbrel (563).
"We feel, if Chapman is healthy and is the Chapman that we all have seen over the years, an opportunity exists and we'll be served well by having him here whenever he's given the ball," Cashman said.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
The structure of the Yankees' immensely talented relief corps may be unclear for quite some time. The organization could choose to tip its hand in the coming days about how it will utilize Chapman, Miller and Betances, or it may opt to wait until Spring Training to reveal its plans.
Either Chapman or Miller should emerge as the team's ninth-inning man, and both have the skills to be a top-tier fantasy closer. Chapman has posted a stellar 2.17 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP and a 15.4 K/9 rate during his big league tenure. By moving from the rebuilding Reds to the more competitive Yankees, the native Cuban has the potential for his first career 40-save season in 2016. Meanwhile, Miller has recently been as effective as virtually any reliever in baseball, recording a 2.03 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and a 14.7 K/9 rate over the past two seasons. The left-hander saved 36 games with the Yankees in '15, his first campaign as a full-time closer.
Back in Cincinnati, the search will be underway for a new stopper. After posting a 2.94 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP across 64 1/3 innings in '15, J.J. Hoover may be the favorite for the ninth-inning gig among the Reds' current relief corps. But the club may also opt to add a bullpen arm with more closing experience to compete with Hoover, who has just five career saves.