Thoughts On The Aroldis Chapman Trade

How's that for something unexpected?  I got a text from a friend yesterday afternoon while I was white-knuckling the drive home from work in a snow/sleet storm saying "Aroldis Chapman to the Yanks?" and I didn't know how to take it.  I didn't know if he was asking me if I thought it was a good idea, if there was a rumor out there I wasn't aware of, or if he was just trying to start a hot stove conversation.  It didn't occur to me that it might have actually been a trade the Yankees executed.  But they did and the 4-for-1 swap was quickly announced and confirmed by both teams.  This one really came out of nowhere. Despite Chapman's jaw-dropping on-field performance to date, this trade isn't as fun to discuss as the Starlin Castro trade because of the circumstances surrounding Chapman presently.  Let's be honest, those circumstances - the domestic violence allegations against Chapman and the potential impending suspension under MLB's new domestic violence policy - are the only reason the Yankees made this deal and Brian Cashman openly admitted that in his statements yesterday.  Domestic violence is a hot button issue in the sports world right now, as it should be there and everywhere, and there is no way to discuss this deal without at least referencing the allegations.  To do so would be shortsighted and irresponsible.

At the same time, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not even close to the right person to discuss those parts of Chapman's situation.  I gave up on the idea of pro athletes being role models and people that should be held to a higher standard a long time ago and I have no problem separating the seriousness of the allegations against Chapman the person from the potential benefits that his acquisition provides to my favorite baseball team.  I can root for the Yankees while acknowledging that not every member of the organization is a great person.  I know that the allegations against Chapman are serious, and if he is guilty of choking and hitting his girlfriend then he should be severely punished.  I also know that no arrests were made, no charges were filed, and I certainly wasn't there that night to see what happened.  I'm in no position to pass judgement on Aroldis Chapman as a person and I'm going to choose not to do so as part of my analysis of this trade.

If we're being honest I'm probably in no position to judge him as a baseball player either, but that's what I do here at IIATMS and that's what I'm going to get back to doing now.  So from a baseball standpoint, I absolutely love this trade.  Love it.  And given the way the Yankees have approached the trade market in their other moves this offseason, I have no reason to love it.  It didn't address an area of need, at least not directly, and the team wasn't necessarily trading from positions of depth in making the deal.  The move also added payroll, which we know Hal "Big Money" $teinbrenner doesn't want to do, so the chances of the team doing anything even remotely significant to address their starting rotation on the free agent front all but disappear with this move.

Consider the trade in that context of helping the rotation, however, and you'll see that this might have been the best way for Cash to do that given his current constraints.  The Yankees had already removed themselves from the major parts of the FA pitching market, things have been pretty stagnant on the trade fronts lately, and any pitcher added on a MiL deal is going to be emergency injury depth.  If it gets to the point that they're needed, the Yankees are probably already screwed.  The best way to help this risky rotation next year is by taking more of the burden off of them and that's what adding Chapman will allow Joe to do.  Now he's got arguably the 3 best relievers in baseball in his bullpen and he can use all of them together or in any pairing combination to shorten games, manage his starter's workloads, and protect leads and preserve wins.

Despite what some people think, Joe has proven himself to be a very effective bullpen manager when he's got enough healthy and reliable arms to work with.  In Chapman, he's not just getting somebody reliable, he's getting the best in the biz.  I don't need to rattle off any statistics to prove that point, but I will anyway because they're astounding.  2.17/1.97/2.18 career tripleslash in 319 innings pitched, 546 strikeouts, 42.9% career K rate, .153 career BA against.  He had a 52.5% K rate in 2014.  52.5%.  Think about that.  He's an absolute stud pitcher and impressive to watch in person.  However he fits into the mix with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, he's going to be lights out.

Of course, that assumes the Yankees are planning on keeping that trio together and not moving Miller for pitching, and it's worth noting that Cashman did say that was the plan.  I don't think he makes this move as a prelude to another move.  I think he makes this move because he knows there aren't any good moves to be made trying to address the rotation directly, and if that holds true then I have to tip my cap to him for thinking outside the box.  The other moves he'd already made did leave the team with a sizable gap in the bullpen.  Now that gap has been plugged, the Yankee bullpen becomes the best in baseball, the team is in position to potentially pick up a future draft pick through the QO process, and Cash really didn't have to give up much to make all that happen.

Quickly on that return package, I think you have to like it from the Yankee side.  Tony Renda and Caleb Cotham are nobodies, at least as far as being legitimate prospects goes.  Eric Jagielo and Rookie Davis were both legit.  I had them in my top 10.  But Jagielo has had problems staying healthy and likely isn't sticking at third base long term and Davis is coming off his breakout season.  We haven't seen enough of him at the upper levels yet to know how real that breakout was.  Giving up a pitching prospect like that is much better than giving up someone like Severino, and when you throw that name, Judge, Bird, Mateo, and Sanchez all out there together as guys that weren't included in the deal, that's a win.

This has turned into a bit of a ramble, which is pretty par for the course for me when I haven't written anything of substance in a while, but there's a lot to like about this deal.  Aroldis Chapman is a big time reliever, one of the best in baseball on his worst day, and he's a difference maker for a team that had (and still has) a lot of questions about its pitching staff.  As long as he's not suspended for the entire 2016 season, this is a good trade for the Yankees and another feather in Cash's cap as he tries to rebuild/reinforce this team on a budget.