Aroldis Chapman made his Chicago Cubs debut on Wednesday, pitching the ninth inning of an 8-1 victory over crosstown rivals the Chicago White Sox. The howitzer-armed lefty made quick work of the three batter he faced, impressing many with his extreme velocity.
Chapman, 28, was acquired by the Cubs on Monday in a trade that sent Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford to the New York Yankees. As with many trades like it, this roster move has already been dissected numerous times in the past 72 hours based on not only merit, but value as well. Most fans seem happy to have Chapman join Chicago’s north-side squad, while others still worry about the future and giving away too much young talent too quickly.
The Cubs have prided themselves on building this team from the ground up, and that began with a farm system overhaul a half-decade ago. Much of what a fan would see on the field today at Wrigley Field has been raised, trained, and nurtured in their own farm system before reaching the big leagues.
It has been mentioned that infielder Torres has the potential to be a better shortstop than current Cub Addison Russell. Many, including myself, saw Torres coming to the majors in a few years and Russell moving over to third base, causing the eventual (and expected) move of Kris Bryant to the outfield. Torres is a four-tool who can do everything except hit for power. Although he still needs a lot of work in the plate-discipline department, don’t begin to think that he doesn’t have his head on his shoulders. He’s very mature for his age. With some good coaching and a few more seasons of minor-league plate appearances, I have no doubt that he’ll find himself in Yankee Stadium before this decade is out.
The other notable prospect in this deal is McKinney. He could make a name for himself in New York as a fourth or fifth outfielder. He has the awareness to play all three outfield positions but lacks the closing speed or arm to play center field or right field on the big-league level.
Everything considered, the deal was a necessary one as making a playoff run always requires a variety of reliable bullpen arms. But even with the loss of some of the club’s top prospects, others are still working hard and emerging as this season progresses.
Still considered a prospect because his rookie clock has not yet run out, Willson Contreras has been a breath of fresh air in this lineup. He has been touted as the best catching prospect in baseball, and when you watch him play it’s easy to see why. He’s vastly mature for his age, staying cool and collected catching for one of this season’s best starting rotations, and just as unfazed at the plate — he hit the first pitch he saw in the majors over the fence in right-center barely a month ago.
Also moving up the list is 2015 first-round pick Ian Happ. He’s already coming along nicely in the field as he’s quickly fitting the mold of fellow super-utility player Ben Zobrist. He began his season with the Single-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans and has already been promoted to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies while not wasting any time continuing his barrage on minor-league pitchers. A gifted arm and a threatening swing will continue to aid Happ during his inevitable ascension to the majors.
So the Cubs did lose a few young, talented players, but in the end it was a good baseball decision to make this trade. Chapman could be the missing piece this club has needed to make that push towards their postseason dreams. As it is, the Cubs farm system will continue to hold steady as the future progressively looks brighter.