Per multiple reports leading up to it, and per Jon Heyman’s indication that it’s actually done (and several reports that followed), the Cubs are expected to acquire Aroldis Chapman today from the Yankees in exchange for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, pitcher Adam Warren, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and one more yet-to-be-identified prospect. (UPDATE: Patrick Mooney reports that it’s outfield prospect Rashad Crawford.)
I don’t think it’s going to be possible to unpack and analyze the WOW-SO-MANY-LAYERS of a trade like this within moments, but I do want to give some very initial thoughts:
- When a team already knows (to a 95+ percent degree) that it’s going to make the playoffs, adding impact, shutdown pitchers (relievers and starters alike) can be disproportionately valuable, because you already know you will have the opportunity to use them in the most important innings on the baseball calendar. The price on a guy like Chapman was always going to be extreme, and that’s fair.
- Don’t forget the trickle-back effect of adding an arm like Chapman’s – it doesn’t just add an elite closer (though I’d argue Joe Maddon doesn’t even have to use him that rigidly), it also pushes back guys like Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, who can be used much more flexibly in earlier innings when the game may very well be on the line.
- Don’t forget, part 2: the Cubs getting Chapman means another NL contender did not get him. Once again, with the Cubs being a 95+ percent team to make the playoffs, they are already in a position to know that Chapman on another contender could really hurt them. That is a non-zero consideration.
- All that said, this is a really sizable price to pay for 2.5 months of a one-inning reliever. If you have a problem with the trade on that account, I don’t think I’m going to be able to call you silly. Even if you see a prospect like Gleyber Torres as “blocked” on the big league Cubs, he’s still a really valuable asset. And once you deal that asset, its value is gone. Adding Warren (a guy who could easily get back on track and be the guy he was for three years with the Yankees – that’s a very valuable guy!), Crawford (an intriguing athlete at High-A), and McKinney to the deal pushes it closer to “not a good baseball move” for me, but I still think I buy it, overall. McKinney, for what it’s worth, has really struggled this year, and never seemed to come fully back after breaking his knee cap late last year.
- We can’t lose sight of the fact that the Cubs stockpiled prospect currency in recent years so that they would be in a position to make a move like this when the playoffs were in view. The fear that trading a prospect might come back to haunt you later cannot dictate the decision that is on the table today. The Cubs will have evaluated the prospects as well as anyone could, and then they will have made a projection. Perhaps they aren’t as high on these prospects as the outside pundits.
- As for the other considerations in the trade – specifically, the domestic violence suspension – I have to stick with what I wrote this morning:
[I]t is fair that some fans have questions about the Cubs adding a player who was implicated in a serious domestic violence and gun incident in the offseason, but those concerns can be addressed by an open and thoughtful discussion by the organization when the time comes. There’s a whole lot that I don’t know, and I don’t think it’s fair for me to have a conclusive opinion one way or the other until there has been an opportunity to be apprised of all the information.
I know this is not a topic everyone wants to see me getting into, but the reality is that Chapman was suspended 30 baseball games this year under baseball’s domestic violence policy. This is a baseball issue, and it is part of the considerations associated with adding him to this Cubs team. Like you, I very much want to enjoy watching a player of Chapman’s historically impressive talent pitching for the Cubs in meaningful games. But I also want more information about what happened last October and about what has happened since, and I’m interested in hearing the Cubs’ perspective on these issues if the deal comes to pass.
Given that many Cubs fans have only a passing knowledge of Chapman and the domestic violence/gun incident for which he was suspended, I think it’s fair for all of us to want more information before finalizing our feelings on this. And I’m not talking to either side of the aisle here, I’m talking to both. If your predisposition is to not want Chapman on the team, I encourage you to investigate what really did or did not happen in October to the best of your ability. If your predisposition is to not care at all about what happened in October, I’d encourage you to do the same.
To that end, perhaps the most useful breakdown I’ve found so far is this Deadspin article going through the Broward State Attorney’s Office’s statement on the official decision not to prosecute Chapman for the incident.
- Oh, I should separately add: I don’t really have many “clubhouse” concerns on this. Chapman is generally regarded as a good teammate, and, even if you recall that blowup he sparked with the Cubs a couple years ago, Anthony Rizzo has no beef with it.