(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman promised a big offseason, and it had not lived up to that until Monday afternoon when he acquired possibly the best closer in baseball, Aroldis Chapman, from the Cincinnati Reds.
Known for his 100-plus mile-per-hour fastballs, Chapman is an electrifying presence on the mound.
Chapman was acquired for RHPs Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and INFs Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda.
On December 7, Chapman was originally dealt from the Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the trade was voided later that day when it came out that he is facing investigations by Major League Baseball and law enforcement into a domestic dispute that happened in October.
No arrests were made at the time of the incident, but Chapman could be facing substantial punishment for his actions.
Cashman said in a conference call on Monday, “I can’t speculate on MLB’s investigation, but we have researched this to the best of our ability. We have done much due diligence on the subject at hand and have completed the transaction based on the due diligence.
“We’ve been on several conversations with the Reds and Chapman over the years, and I think given the circumstances that currently exist, the price point on an acquisition has been modified. With all of the information currently existing, we felt this was a chance to add a big arm to our bullpen.
“We are acquiring him knowing there are unresolved issues and we will respect the process,” said Cashman, who also said, “there’s some serious issues here.”
In a way, Cashman acknowledged that this trade had appeal because they are getting Chapman for less than what had been discussed at prior times with the Reds, especially around the trade deadline in July.
As it stands now, the Yankees will have one of the strongest bullpens in baseball, with Chapman joining Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
Miller served as the Yankees closer last season, and had 36 saves. He was being shopped around early in the offseason likely for starting pitching or a bat, and it will be interesting to see if they revisit some trade discussions now that they have Chapman to serve as closer.
Cashman said he spoke to Miller on Monday afternoon about the Chapman trade and let him know his “intent is to retain all three players, and how it shakes out in the closer’s role, that’s all for another day.”
Cashman did not commit to who he feels should be the closer in 2016, except to say that it will be decided in spring training and that Joe Girardi has “options.”
Betances, Miller, and Chapman are three of the best power pitchers in the league. Betances led Major League Baseball with 131 strikeouts, followed by Chapman with 116, and Miller had 100.
Referring to how strong the Yankees bullpen has been, Cashman said, “It would be pretty exciting if it were even better than last year.”
One of the anchors of the Yankee bullpen in 2015 was left-hander Justin Wilson, who the Yankees traded to the Detroit Tigers earlier this month. Wilson pitched primarily in the seventh inning, and did a great job after being brought in from the Pirates in November 2014 for Francisco Cervelli.
Chapman, 27, was a National League All-Star in each of the last four seasons from 2012 to 2015. He went 4-4 with 33 saves and a 1.63 ERA (66.1IP, 12ER) in 65 relief appearances with the Reds in 2015. His 15.74K/9.0IP ratio led all Major League relievers, while his 116K ranked second behind only Dellin Betances (131). He recorded his 500th career strikeout on July 19 vs. Cleveland, having reached the plateau in 292.0IP to become the fastest to 500K by innings pitched in Major League history, which surpassed Craig Kimbrel’s record of 500K in 305.0IP, set earlier in 2015.
According to MLB’s Statcast, Chapman threw the 62 fastest pitches in the Majors in 2015, with a high of 103.92 mph on June 29 (fouled off by Minnesota’s Brian Dozier). He also posted the highest average fastball velocity in the Majors (99.96 mph), ahead of Kansas City’s Kelvin Herrera (98.46). He tossed the ninth inning for the National League in the All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park, striking out all three batters faced.
Over six career Major League seasons (2010-15), Chapman has gone 19-20 with 146 saves, a 2.17 ERA (319.0IP, 169H, 77ER, 155BB, 546K) and 1.02 WHIP in 324 relief appearances. Since 2010, he leads all Major League relievers with a 15.40K/9.0IP ratio and ranks second in strikeouts, trailing only Kimbrel (563). He is the only pitcher in Major League history with four seasons of at least 30 saves and 100K, having done so in each of the last four years (2012-15). Only Eric Gagne (2002-04) and Billy Wagner (1999, 2003, ’10) have had as many as three such seasons in their careers.
The Holguin, Cuba, native has more career saves than any other Cuba-born pitcher, surpassing Danys Baez’s record (114) on April 10, 2015 vs. St. Louis.Chapman was originally signed by the Reds to a six-year contract on January 11, 2010, extending through the 2015 season, and is the only relief pitcher ever to be named to four All-Star teams while playing for the Reds.
Caleb Cotham, 28, made his Major League debut with the Yankees in 2015, and he went 1-0 with a 6.52 ERA (9.2IP, 7ER) in 12 relief appearances. On July 29 at Texas, he struck out four batters (in 1.2IP) to become only the 11thYankees reliever since 1914 to record at least 4K in his first career appearance. Cotham spent the majority of the season in the minors, combining to go 6-4 with two saves and a 2.21 ERA (57.0IP, 14ER) in 35 relief appearances with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Over six minor league seasons, Cotham is 19-24 with a 3.94 ERA (367.2IP, 161ER, 377H, 122BB, 312K) in 120 games (57 starts).
Rookie Davis, 22, began the 2015 season with Single-A Tampa, going 6-6 with a 3.70 ERA (97.1IP, 40ER) and 105K in 19 starts, ranking fifth in the Florida State League in strikeouts. He was promoted to Double-A Trenton in August, going 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA (33.1IP, 16ER) and 24K in six games (five starts). Overall, he ranked second among Yankees farmhands with 129K. He was originally selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and has combined to go 19-20 with a 3.90 ERA (325.2IP, 141ER) and 299K in 72 career minor league appearances (63 starts).
Eric Jagielo, 23, spent the 2015 season with Double-A Trenton, batting .284 (63-for-222) with 36R, 16 doubles, 2 triples, 9HR and 35RBI in 58 games en route to being named an Eastern League All-Star. Among Thunder players, he ranked third with 27 extra-base hits, despite missing the team’s final 78 games due to injury. Over three minor league seasons, he has combined to hit .266 (199-for-747) with 104R, 46 doubles, 33HR and 120RBI in 205 games.Jagielo was originally selected by the Yankees in the first round (26th overall) of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Tony Renda, 24, hit .270 (74-for-274) with 42R, 20 doubles, 1 triple, 2HR, 21RBI and 10SB in 73 games with Double-A Trenton after being acquired by the Yankees from Washington on June 11, 2015, in exchange for RHP David Carpenter.Renda began the season with Double-A Harrisburg, batting .267 (55-for-206) with 31R, 10 doubles, 1 triple, 1HR, 23RBI and 13SB in 54 games. He was originally selected by the Nationals in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and has hit .285 (487-for-1,710) with 294R, 103 doubles, 9 triples, 6HR, 174RBI and 87SB in 440 games over parts of four minor league seasons.