Closer Aroldis Chapman has been almost unhittable ever since coming over to the major leagues from Cuba in 2010. In six seasons, he has struck out 546 batters in a mere 319 innings, good for an astonishing 15.4 K/9, including 16.6 K/9 combined during the past two years alone. His 2.17 ERA and 1.97 FIP for his career are roughly 50 percent better than league average, and opposing batters have hit an atrocious .154/.268/.227 against him. Only one lefthanded hitter has ever homered against Chapman in 231 games.
There is no denying that the man is a master of his craft. The Yankees just acquired him from the Reds for a pretty reasonable cost, so from a pure on-field value perspective, it's likely a steal. The bullpen needed more security beyond Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, particularly given Betances's heavy use in 2015. Both Miller and Betances have also said that they are comfortable in any bullpen role, so there should not be much closer drama. Sure, Rookie Davis and Eric Jagielo were intriguing prospects (Tony Renda and Caleb Cotham less so), but as much as some Yankees fans like them, minor leaguers like them are a dime a dozen. Very few people think Jagielo has the ability to play third base given his defensive issues and injury concerns, and he has first base all over his future, a position that is blocked by Greg Bird.
Beyond Jagielo, Davis was one of their better pitching prospects, but he has made precisely five starts above A-ball. It's a long way to go from the Florida State League to the majors. The Yankees felt so uneasy about the possibility of having to use him on the MLB squad at some point this year that they dealt Justin Wilson for mostly unknown Triple-A starters Luis Cessa and Chad Green. The Yankees know Davis better than anyone, so their final internal judgment on him certainly means a lot.
The most concerning part of this deal has to be Aroldis Chapman the human being. The Dodgers had a trade for Chapman seemingly all ready to go earlier in the off-season before talks came to a grinding halt amid domestic violence allegations. Those last three words might not send enough of a message to most people. This paragraph from FOX Sports though should send a chill (emphasis mine):
Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown and Jeff Passan reported late Monday that Chapman allegedly fired eight gunshots in the garage of his Miami home during an argument in October during which his girlfriend told police the pitcher choked her and pushed her against a wall, citing police reports obtained by the site.
Obviously, Chapman and his agent denied the charges, but while some can go on about how charges were not pressed and how we "have to wait to hear both sides," it is still extremely unsettling. It seems like almost all of these accusations that reach the police turn out to be true. Every now and then there will be an exception like that Duke lacrosse case a few years ago, but for the most part, acting like we have to wait for the whole truth to come out feels like mere avoidance. Chances are that Chapman did indeed do something absolutely reprehensible, and chances are that he did exactly what the report said.
Major League Baseball and the Yankees certainly think that the charges carry weight. MLB is planning to suspend Chapman for an indeterminate portion of the 2016 season under the discretion of their new policy against domestic violence. Chapman only has one year of team control left, but if he is suspended for more than 45 days, then his overall service time would not qualify for free agency. So Chapman could end up being arb-eligble for the 2017 Yankees as well.
How comfortable can fans be with him on the team though? For the most part, the Yankees have avoided unsavory characters on their teams over the years. People have had problems with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi for their PED ties, but that's just tied to baseball performance, not being a crappy human being with domestic violence charges. Although George Steinbrenner was big on giving recovering addicts like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Steve Howe countless chances, their behavior had not caused domestic violence (though Gooden's did later). Other players like '90s outfielder Chad Curtis turned out to be awful people, but that was not known at the time.
While the Yankees have a better bullpen, as Tanya noted in her initial post, they become a little more difficult to root for when they bring in shady characters like Chapman. It was one thing to acquire Starlin Castro a couple years after his sexual assault charges. He was in his early 20s when those accusations were made, and it's logical to see how he might have matured in the years since then. Chapman's incident occurred just this October. Could his attitude toward women have really changed that much?
Fans like me with these concerns will just have to cross our fingers and hope the Yankees see something in Chapman that we don't. I'm all for the Yankees getting better to achieve championship number 28. I just would hate to see them acquiring the Greg Hardys and Terrell Suggs of the world to accomplish this goal.