Player Acquisition Cost: LHP Aroldis Chapman
As our trade profile series rolls on, you may have noticed a theme with the players profiled. The Cubs need bullpen help and they need it bad. This month, the bullpen has an ERA of 4.21 and if it weren’t for Hector Rondon, Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill, their ERA would be 6.23. Many strong starts by the rotation have been either been wasted or pushed further out of reach.
So it’s no surprise that the most consistent rumor regarding the club has centered around the Cubs’ front office sending scouts to watch the New York Yankees and their trio of relievers; LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Dellin Betances and LHP Aroldis Chapman. Two weeks ago we profiled Miller and his likely high price tag. Betances is probably a long shot to acquire seeing as he’s controlled cheaply through 2020 and would likely take a king’s ransom to acquire. That leaves Chapman as the other possibility since he will be a free agent at the end of the season.
The 6-foot-4, 28-year old left hander has been one of the most dominant closers of the recent generation thanks to a blazing fastball that tops 100 mph on a regular basis. In seven years in the majors, he owns a 20-20 record, 161 saves, 2.20 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 577 strikeouts in 339 innings.
His season started late this year due to a 30-game suspension from Major League Baseball due to a domestic violence incident between him and his girlfriend. Chapman allegedly pushed down, choked his girlfriend during an argument and then later fired eight shots into a wall of his garage with a handgun. The suspension lost him $1.7 million, but it hasn’t seen to faze him much as he’s continued to dominate on the mound. In 21 games, he’s 1-0, with 15 saves, 2.70 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 20 innings.
The domestic violence episode sunk Chapman’s value in the off-season much to the chagrin of the Cincinnati Reds who were hoping to cash in on him for top flight prospects. A deal with the Dodgers was halted because of it and ultimately led to the Yankees acquiring him for a much lower cost. They sent over minor league RHP Rookie Davis and RHP Caleb Cotham, 3B Eric Jagielo and 2B Tony Renda.
Jagielo and Davis were ranked among New York’s top 10 prospects while Cotham and Renda were just inside their top 30. Jagielo is the headliner of the deal as a former first round pick with good power and an ability to drive the ball all around the diamond. He does strike out a lot, but also knows how to draw a walk. It’s questionable though if he’ll stick at the hot corner due to a lack of range and arm strength. Davis broke out as a prospect thanks to an adjustment of his delivery that led to increased velocity. He has a mid-90s fastball, mid-70s curve, and low-80s change that could lead to him being a mid-rotation starter. Renda has shown speed in the minors, been tough to strike out and has a strong work ethic. Cotham is the oldest of the four at 28 and has filled a role in the bullpen for the Reds, but not with much success.
In addition to Chapman’s own trade history, it may be best to compare his value to similar situations. Last season at the deadline, the Washington Nationals added Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon for RHP Nick Pivetta. At the time of the deal, Papelbon had a 2-1 record, 17 saves, 1.59 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. He also had an additional year of control and a new deal had to be struck for the following season in order for him to waive his no-trade clause, but that surprisingly didn’t add to his value. His clubhouse demeanor and his outspokenness towards team management actually sunk it instead. Pivetta was still a top 10 prospect for Washington thanks to a fastball that touched 96 mph and solid numbers split between High-A and Double-A.
Francisco Rodriguez has had his share of accusations in the past for domestic violence and his fiery personality has also rubbed teammates the wrong way as well. Because of this, his value has taken somewhat of a hit over the years despite continued success into his 30s. Last year, K-Rod finished with a 1-3 record, 38 saves, 2.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 57 innings despite decreased velocity. Nonetheless, he was traded last offseason from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Detroit Tigers for INF Javier Betancourt and C Manny Pina. Betancourt was in Detroit’s top 12 prospects while Pina has been a minor league free agent and no longer a prospect. Betancourt has been a utility guy in the minors capable of playing middle infield. His versatility and contact skills will be what carries him to the minors as he hasn’t shown any power or speed. Meanwhile, Pina is Triple-A catching depth who has shown a penchant for throwing out runners with a career 37% caught stealing rate.
The Yankees haven’t given any indication if they plan to sell any of their relievers yet, but Chapman is probably the most likely to go due to his pending free agency. The team will first have to fall out of contention and hope that his value rises as they near the deadline. As Chapman’s own deal and Papelbon and Rodriguez’s deals have shown, a top 10 prospect or two is a starting point with additional players of value to be included. Players like INF Jeimer Candelario, OF Billy McKinney, OF Eloy Jimenez and RHP Pierce Johnson could be starting points. The Yankees also have said to be looking for starting pitching closer to the majors so RHP Duane Underwood Jr. and RHP Ryan Williams are also possibilities. 1B Dan Vogelbach could be a good bet as well as he’s not needed with Anthony Rizzo around and the Yankees have a big need for first base depth.
There’s no doubt that having a player like Aroldis Chapman to lock down the ninth inning could give Joe Maddon more options and depth. It would move Hector Rondon down into a setup role and give Pedro Strop some help as Justin Grimm has seemingly lost his touch. Aside from what may be required to attain Chapman, the biggest question may be if the front office deems it necessary to procure him, if it will mess with the clubhouse’s happy-go-lucky demeanor. Despite Chapman’s outerworldly abilities, it would be a hard pill to swallow if his acquisition led to a loss of impact prospects and a potential poisoning of the clubhouse due to his past transgressions and demeanor. It might not make the risk worth the reward.
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