On one hand the New York Yankees trade for lefthander Aroldis Chapman for four minor leaguers does make sense. Then there are the questions that loom as to why GM Brian Cashman would pull of this late December trade for the 27-year old Cuban who faces an impending suspension of domestic violence pending the outcome of an investigation by Major League Baseball.
Regardless, suspension or not, acquiring Chapman makes the Yankees that much stronger in the bullpen with a version of a “Three Headed Monster” that helped the Kansas City Royals to their 2014 American League Championship. Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are three of the elite relievers in baseball and the Yankees with a questionable starting rotation now have that leverage to depend on their pen in the late innings.
Maybe Chapman, Betances and Miller won’t compare to the Royals’ three of Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland and Wade Davis, but it does have the making to be very similar. With Chapman, the Yankees have a top three in the pen that lead in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings in baseball, again something that could be better than that Kansas City trio.
Or this trade for Chapman could lead to more wheeling and dealing for the Yankees before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa Florida in 51 days. Miller this past season, his first with New York, had 36 saves and Betances, in a setup role and occasional closer pitched close to 84 innings and was an all-star the second straight year.
Cashman, late Monday in a conference call to the media said that there was every intention “to keep Miller,” despite the continuing rumors of trade talk that he could be traded for another starting pitcher, perhaps in a package for outfielder Brett Gardner who is also the subject of trade rumors.
But if this new “Three-Headed Monster” remains in the Bronx, the Yankees are once again strong in the bullpen after losing some valuable tools via other trades this offseason.
A high ranking scout said, “With Chapman, Betances and Miller the Yankees will be tough to beat in the late innings and it is very similar to the Kansas City team of a few years ago.” Manager Joe Girardi at times this past season was criticized for possibly going to Betances too often, especially late in the season when starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda struggled in the late innings.
Chapman with 16 strikeouts per nine innings was tops for relievers last season and Betances was second with 131. So that answers the question as to the Yankees bullpen getting stronger.
But that looming investigation by MLB, is an issue of concern and the question has to be asked, why would Cashman and the Yankees take a risk? Cashman is smart enough to be aware that the issue with his newest acquisition will be resolved. The trade would not have been made if there were questions about a suspension, and there is every reason to believe that Chapman will be available for the entire season.
Though the Yankees have tended to be skeptical about taking on controversial players, or for that matter retaining one. Recall, as we all do, how much the Yankees hierarchy was looking to rid the controversial Alex Rodriguez and eat up the remaining three years of his $275 million dollar contract and get away from all of the steroid controversy.
They gave in and all was forgiven. A-Rod was a revived player and all was content in the Bronx.
What makes this Chapman trade more interesting is how the Yankees did not give up much even at the expense of giving up some youngsters. And the Yankees are looking to get younger as 38-year old Carlos Beltran and 35-year Mark Teixeira are in the final years of their lucrative contracts.
Does Chapman makes the Yankees that more formidable in the Al East? The Chapman fastball at times clocked at 105 has not lost much velocity, and late inning production from the bullpen does win ballgames as evidenced the last two years by the Royals. The Yankees in that respect now have that version of a trio that can win those late inning games, assuming they stay healthy.
The Chapman contract comes cheap in his contract year. The Yankees, and from what Cashman was saying have every intention of retaining the 27-year old who is slated to earn $16 million this season. And by all standards, the baggage the Dodgers would not take on of domestic violence obviously means nothing to the Yankees.
“To have Chapman and Miller and Betances is to have a real force at the back end of our bullpen,” Cashman said.
All they want in the Bronx is to improve and do what they always do, and that is win and get to the postseason. The addition of Aroldis Chapman and a formidable bullpen makes the Yankees winning formula that much better.