Well, did anyone see that coming?
The Yankees have announced they've acquired lefty reliever Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for right-handed pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis, as well as infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda.
It's a surprising move, but it certainly makes sense for both the Yankees and Reds. The win-now Yankees get possibly the best reliever in baseball, and the rebuilding Reds get an unspectacular, but solid haul of minor leaguers for a guy they were going to lose after 2016, anyway.
For the Yankees, this is a great trade that makes them significantly better this season, yet doesn't mortgage their future. They keep their top young talent in Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez, and surrender two top 20 instead. Jagielo and Davis are solid prospects and have promising futures, but neither are top five prospects. When you can land arguably the most dominant closer in baseball without giving up your top talent, you have to do it.
There's no denying just how great Aroldis Chapman has been. These numbers from last season and then his career are just staggering.
Jaw-dropping, eye-popping, breath-taking, pick whatever adjective you want. Larry David would describe this guy as "pretty, pretttty, pretttttty good."
Chapman has been a dominant reliever for four seasons now, positing a 2.00 ERA or lower in three of those years. Righties barely touch him, even lefties can't hit off him. He can throw 130 MPH (105, but whatever, still like 100 MPH faster than me), and statistically, he's the best strikeout pitcher in baseball history. Of all pitchers in history who have thrown 100 or more innings, Chapman leads with 15.4 K/9. So, yes, Larry David is right.
Adding this historic lefty to the bullpen gives the Yankees the most dominant backend in baseball. With Chapman, fellow left-hander Andrew Miller, and righty Dellin Betances, the Bombers can now essentially play 6 inning games. It's unclear who will be the closer, but all three are very capable.
Among those with at least 50 innings pitched, the three relievers led baseball in K/9 last season. Combining all three players' numbers last season, this is the combined superhuman the Yankees' bullpen now features.
Besides possibly giving the Yankees the best reliever trio in baseball history, it helps them in many other ways. First off, Miller is now very movable. I don't think it'd be a smart move considering how great this trio is. However, if they want to, the Yankees have the ability to move Miller for a frontline starter without hurting the bullpen as much, since they now have Chapman to replace him. If they do keep Miller, there's now injury insurance. If one goes down, you still have two lockdown relievers.
Additionally, while it obviously deepens the bullpen after losing Justin Wilson and Adam Warren, it also helps a shaky rotation. The Yankees lack a true ace, and there's many durability questions throughout the rotation. Instead of spending money on a starter, or trading for one, the Yankees may be opting to just bolster the bullpen and lessen the expectations of the rotation. A starter now really only has to go six innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen and closing the door. On days they don't use all three, someone rests and you can use just one or two of them depending on how far the starter goes. And if the Yankees make the playoffs, they can go full-Royals and have the three combine to pitch the final four or five innings. Good luck, opponents. No matter what, the Yankees have given themselves a lot of flexibility.
As he has been recently, Brian Cashman also kept an eye on the future with this deal. If Chapman hits free agency after the 2016 season, the Yankees will give him a qualifying offer. If he accepts it, they get another year of Chapman. If not, the Yankees can still sign him, or they can add a compensation pick if he signs elsewhere and continue to build the farm system.
As for the elephant in the room: Chapman's domestic violence case. Chapman was involved in a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend in October, but no arrests were made. As part of their new domestic abuse policy, Major League Baseball is currently performing their own investigation.
Aroldis Chapman will not be winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but I don't want to sit here and condemn him until he's proven guilty. Keeping this to just baseball, a potential suspension could be huge for this deal. It's very possible he'll get a suspension, but the question is for how long. If he misses more than 45 days, his service time won't reach the necessary amount for him to become a free agent and the Yankees would get him for another season. So either the Yankees are getting Chapman for almost a full season this year, or they're getting him for a good portion of time this year, and then all of 2017. Either way works out for the Yankees.
No matter how it's broken down, this trade makes a lot of sense for the Yankees from a baseball perspective. They have added an elite reliever without giving up their top prospects, strengthened the entire pitching staff, given themselves tons of flexibility, and are now even more of a legitimate contender in the AL East.