Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman potentially pulled off the steal of the offseason on Monday when he exchanged four minor league prospects to the Cincinnati Reds for four-time All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman will create a three-headed monster in the Bronx bullpen by joining All-Star Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to shut down opponents in the last third of the game. It doesn’t take much for the Yankees to realize the success happening just a short subway ride away in Queens, and the rise of rival Boston inside the division to know that they have to make a move.
Cashman was able to land his man, giving the Yankees the top three pitchers in the league in swing-and-miss percentage and stability to its shaky starting rotation, mimicking the ways of the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals. The new Yankee trio combined for a 1.72 ERA a season ago compared to the 2.49 ERA posted by the Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland in the back half of games for Kansas City.
Chapman is expected to pitch in the ninth inning for the Yankees in 2016 replacing Miller who racked up 36 saves for the Bombers a season ago. Manager Joe Girardi will have to make a decision on whether or not to move Miller down to the eighth inning pushing Betances down to the seventh or just move Miller to the seventh and keeping Betances in his proven role. Chapman and Miller may also share time in the closer’s role.
Three weeks ago the Los Angeles Dodgers thought they had struck a deal with the Reds to acquire Chapman at the Winter Meetings until a domestic violence abuse report came out on the Cuban fireballer. The deal was nixed, and Chapman stayed with the Reds until Cincinnati truly made a deal that Cashman and the Yankees could not decline. Cincinnati received pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda. Only two of the prospects that were dealt were in the top-15 in the Yankee system according to Baseball America and the other two weren’t even top-30 prospects.
With a potential suspension on the line for Chapman, New York could miss its new weapon for the first month or so of the season. If that is the case New York could benefit both by Chapman being fresh when it comes to playoff time or if Chapman isn’t eligible to play in at least 138 games in the 2016 season, it will not count as a full season and he will not become a free agent until 2017 which means the Yankees will have him for even longer than expected.
The emergence of Chapman could give some traction to the thought of a potential trade to move Miller for a haul of prospects in return to the Yankees. The Chicago Cubs could be a landing spot for the 30 year-old as they’re loaded with young talent and could upgrade in the ninth after having Bruce Rondon do a solid job for them a season ago in that role. Also Miller’s past with Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein could spark a reunion of their days together in Boston. The Dodgers could also be a potential fit after they’re stacked up on prospects and were originally after Chapman to be its new closer. The Dodgers could also pursue Miller, but their focus at this point would seemingly be on the starting rotation.
Keeping all three of the relievers would mean that it’s game over if the Yankees take a lead into the seventh. The amount of innings that this trio can eat up helps bridge the gap between the starters, who were 12th in the American League in innings pitched last season, and the bullpen. No matter what order Girardi calls them into the game, Chapman, Betances, and Miller going to be deadly and very good. This one trade may have just transformed the AL East to one of the weaker divisions in baseball, to one of the more competitive ones.