Perhaps you've heard, but the Yankees are acquiring Aroldis Chapman. The left-handed reliever is coming over from the Cincinnati Reds amid controversy surrounding horrific domestic violence allegations. The cost is in the form of a littany of minor leaguers; third baseman Eric Jagielo, second baseman Tony Renda, and right-handed pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis. The most major prospects are likely Jagielo and Davis, but the most significant part of this deal is clearly Chapman.
Chapman is third-year arbitration eligible, and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $12.9 million in 2016. However, perhaps one of the most peculiar wrinkles in this deal is that of Chapman's service time. With a suspension looming, Chapman may not reach the service time required to hit free agency after 2016. Should he be suspended and fail to accrue at least 138 days of service, the Yankees would be afforded another year of team control. The left-hander will be 28 next season, and the potential to keep him for his age 29 season as well certainly played a factor in New York's pursuit of him. His potential suspension would also lower his cost in 2016, something management won't mind given their recent disinterest in adding significant payroll.
Chapman's acquisition obviously gives the Yankees a sensational bullpen. Combining Chapman with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances would provide Joe Girardi an unprecedented set of options to shorten games. Last season, Miller was second in MLB in strikeouts per nine innings at 14.59, with Betances placing third at 14.04. The only pitcher to rank ahead of them was Chapman, whose 15.74 figure was actually two strikeouts fewer than his mark from 2014. New York's bullpen was a little shaky after dealing Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, but the hole left by that pair will more than adequately be filled by Chapman.
Miller's name has been floated in trade rumors all offseason, however, and this deal won't do anything to stop that, but the early signs are that the trio of Chapman/Miller/Betances is likely to be left intact. It wouldn't be stunning to see Miller be dealt, but so far there is no indication that Brian Cashman intends to break up this super-bullpen.
The cost to the Yankees in terms of prospects appears to be more about quantity than quality. They managed to bring in a major piece without sacrificing any of the farm system's premier talents, Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez and the like. Jagielo did rank eighth in the Yankees system according to Baseball Propsectus, with Davis slotting in at sixth on Baseball America's list. Cotham, 27, had a cup of coffee in New York last season, pitching to the tune of a 6.52 ERA in nine and two-thirds innings, and Renda posted a .689 OPS in Double-A at age 24. Jagielo and Davis look like the main acquisitions for the Reds, while the Yankees must be pleased they were not forced to empty the farm system much in order to bring in Chapman.
Now that the Yankees have pulled off a major move, where do they go from here? The bullpen has been addressed, but there are still other holes on the roster. The starting rotation is filled with question marks, and taking on Chapman's salary makes it seem evermore unlikely that the Steinbrenner clan will dip into their funds to find a quick fix. If the team's intention is to keep Miller, then trading someone like Brett Gardner, or mining the farm system a little further, look to be the team's only options to add starting pitching help.
Even with three star relievers, the bullpen's underbelly is still a little thin. The loss of Cotham means there is one less arm to soak up innings, and players like James Pazos, Branden Pinder, and Jacob Lindgren still seem likely to be tasked with picking up the slack. In all, New York has assembled the best bullpen in baseball without sacrificing significant value. Chapman offers at least one, and maybe two, years of what could realistically be described as the best reliever in the sport. The events that led to his value being so diminished were, at best, reprehensible. At its core, the Chapman acquisition will force Yankee fans to grapple with the fact that their favorite players, the ones capable of such great athletic achievement, are also capable of truly detestable acts.