In what was one of the offseason’s most unexpected and most exciting trades, the New York Yankees acquired All-Star Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in exchange for 4 non-top-10 prospects in Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda, and Caleb Cotham. Initial reaction? Pure shock. While Chapman was on the block all winter long, the Yankees never seemed all that connected to him. But after Chapman was accused of domestic violence, his asking price dropped and the Yankees swooped in while other teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers turned away. Here’s Overtime’s reaction and breakdown of the Aroldis Chapman trade.
What the Yankees Acquired (Aroldis Chapman):
The Yankees really struck gold from a baseball standpoint with their acquisition of Aroldis Chapman. “The Cuban Missle” is probably best known for his amazing fastball velocity and his bizarre delivery. Chapman averages about 99 mph on his fastball and regularly exceeds 100 mph. Chapman’s record velocity of 105 mph is simply mind-boggling. His sneaky southpaw delivery hides the ball well, and when he releases it at top speed, opposing hitters have no chance.
But there’s more to Chapman than just his blistering four-seamer. He throws a slider about 17% of the time and features it as a secondary strikeout pitch. Chapman’s slider averages about 87 mph and has killer 11-5 movement. Recently Chapman has experimented with a changeup that he features about 8% of the time that averages 88 mph. If Chapman can master the changeup to go with his other-worldly fastball, the Yankees may have the MLB’s best reliever.
Chapman generates strikeouts an absurd 46.3% of the time, and he is an advanced stats darling in all categories. And when combined with elite Yankee relievers Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, the potential for a 6-inning game is all too real for opposing offenses. While we don’t know who exactly will close, set up, and roam around the middle innings, we can probably assume that Chapman will be the primary closer for the Bronx Bombers in 2016. But no matter how you slice it, the Yankees have the MLB’s best bullpen.
Of course, there is one major asterisk with Chapman, and that is his allegations of domestic violence. With the MLB taking a stand against this sort of behavior, Chapman could face a suspension if he is found guilty. While this sounds problematic, the Yankees are willing to accept it if it means that they get Chapman with no strings attached from that point on. That is of course very risky considering Chapman’s reputation as a loose cannon. While it is difficult to root for a man who has allegations of domestic violence against him, the Yankees are willing to take that risk if it increases their likelihood to win a championship. And frankly, acquiring Chapman does just that.
While many believe that the Yankees needed another starting pitcher, their rotation is full at the moment. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Ivan Nova are under contract for years to come, young Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi aren’t going anywhere, and stud prospect Luis Severino is all but guaranteed a rotation spot in 2016. Thus, a bullpen acquisition may have been the best starting pitching upgrade the Yankees could have made. While this sounds silly, consider that the Yankees now have the ability to shorten any game into a 6-inning contest. This in turn will keep the starters healthy and will reduce the workloads of questionable starters Sabathia and Nova. The Yankees couldn’t acquire a starter due to their lack of room, but having an all-star bullpen means less for the starters, which can only help.
What the Reds Acquired (RHP Rookie Davis, 3B/1B Eric Jagielo, 2B Tony Renda, RHP Caleb Cotham):
For you Reds fans out there who have no idea what the Reds got in return for their best player, here’s your primer on the prospects who are coming to Cincinnati. Keep in mind that Davis, Jagielo, and Renda haven’t ever appeared above AA, and that Cotham is merely an organizational depth arm at this point in time. This haul that the Reds got back will not pay dividends immediately in 2016, but could turn out to be valuable down the road.
I had the opportunity to see all four of these players at AA Trenton quite extensively over the past 2 years, so I have a general idea about the type of players they are. Rookie Davis is a hard-throwing, right-handed starter. He strikes out a lot of batters but needs work on his command. Due to this, a move to bullpen could be possible if he doesn’t pan out as a starter. I saw Davis pitch once, and he threw 7 innings (89 pitches), and only allowed 1 run on 2 hits. Davis has the potential to be something special if he can limit his walks.
Eric Jagielo was a first-round pick of the Yankees in 2013 out of Notre Dame. He is a classic power-hitting corner infielder that struggles to make consistent contact and has questionable defense. But Jagielo certainly has the power to stick. In only 58 games at pitcher-friendly Arm and Hammer Park (AA Trenton), Jagielo blasted 9 homers and slugged .495. On the other hand, he struck out 58 times in 58 games, and also committed 9 errors at third base, which led to his development as a first baseman. Jagielo could benefit from a move to first base, where he can focus more on hitting and less on throwing.
As for Tony Renda, he is the wild card of this deal. A former second-round pick, the 5’8″, 175 lb second baseman has solid contact skills but lacks power and defense. He has hit .285 with a .360 OBP in the minors collectively, but has only 6 homers in 440 games. He has good speed (23 steals) but poor defense (26 errors), which could doom him to the minor leagues forever.
The final piece of the deal is righty Caleb Cotham. Cotham was a starter for most of his minor league career, but a shift to the bullpen rejuvenated him. After tearing up AAA in 2015, he faltered a bit at the Major League level as a September Call-Up, but he could be worth a look in the notoriously weak Cincinnati bullpen.
Winners and Losers:
The Yankees certainly won this trade by my estimation. They acquired one of baseball’s best relievers, thus solidifying a strength, and they indirectly addressed a weakness in starting pitching. The Reds didn’t get as much as they probably could have before due to Chapman’s legal issues, but the kids that they did acquire have potential, and they all play positions of need for the Reds. Right now the Yankees won this trade by a long shot, but if Chapman bolts in free agency in 2017, the Reds could be the ones coming out on top.