2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breaking Down the Aroldis Chapman Trade
The New York Yankees officially traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs Monday, a trade that many anticipated would happen. It had long been known that the Yankees were taking calls on Chapman, and that whether or not they were waving the white flag this season, he seemed to be the odd man out in the Bronx. This comes as no surprise, considering Chapman is a free agent at the end of the year and the team still possesses a dominant bullpen without him.
General Manager Brian Cashman spoke in the offseason about how the Yankees would have been foolish not to trade for Chapman, as they were seemingly paying forty cents on the dollar, a bargain for an elite closer, but one with off-the-field issues. Those issues should not be understated, however, and many within the industry have gone so far as to refer to him as a “monster” following the domestic abuse accusations against him. When approached with a deal from the Cubs that could help restock the farm system, without mortgaging the future, Cashman felt it was yet another deal that he could not say no to. Cashman even went on record to say, “this was an easy call, and this was the right call.”
It remains to be seen if the Yankees will make a run at Chapman in the offseason, as it’s being reported that the Yankees talked with Chapman’s representatives in June to discuss a contract. Chapman’s asking price will undoubtedly be high, so it’s easy to assume that the Yankees might be better off letting him sign elsewhere in the winter. The Cubs can still sign Chapman to an extension, but it might not happen until after the season ends.
Who the Yankees get
The return is headlined by Cubs’ top prospect Gleyber Torres, a shortstop that ranked #26 on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects. Torres immediately becomes the team’s best prospect according to MLB.com, sliding right in front of fellow shortstop Jorge Mateo. Torres is hitting .275 this season in High-A ball, with nine home runs, 47 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. He is significantly young for High-A ball. While the Yankees have a young middle infield with Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, no organization can ever have too many middle infielders. Additionally, Torres is still just 19 years old, and far from the majors. Gregorius seems to have the shortstop position locked down for the time being, so Torres’ best shot to start on the big league squad might be second base. The great thing about shortstops is that they make great athletes, as shown by Ian Desmond this past year, so the Yankees could conceivably move him to the outfield if they really needed to. If they decide they don’t want to hang on to Torres, they could use him in a package to get an impact player down the road, perhaps starting this offseason.
In addition to adding a top prospect, the Yankees also received 21-year-old outfielder Billy McKinney, who slots in as the Yankees’ #4 prospect, according to MLB.com. Like Torres, McKinney can be used as well in a package to get a big time player, but they could also use him as outfield depth in the future. Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner don’t seem like they’ll be on the team much longer, so there will be an opening or two in the outfield sometime soon. McKinney came into the season as the 88th ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, and he has slashed .252/.355/.322 this season in Double-A. The slugging percentage is rather ugly, but the former first round pick has never been regarded as a power hitter, but more of a contact hitter.
The Yankees also get back a familiar face in right-handed pitcher Adam Warren, whom the club traded to Chicago fro Starlin Castro in the offseason. Warren has struggled this season, as he owns a 5.91 ERA across 35 innings this season, and was just demoted to Triple-A yesterday by the Cubs to make room for Joe Nathan. Warren experienced plenty of success in the Bronx in the past, as he posted a 3.29 ERA last season across 131.1 innings for the club. Warren provides bullpen depth as well as rotation depth, and the Yankees took advantage of that fact last season. For a team that has an iffy rotation, Warren should see some starts before the season is out, especially if the team ends up moving Michael Pineda or Ivan Nova. The Yankees are hoping that a return to the Bronx will help Warren regain his form.
The final piece the Yankees received in the trade is Rashad Crawford, a center fielder who scouts are calling a “lottery ticket.” Crawford has primarily been a basketball player his entire life, which is part of the reason as to why the Yankees are betting on his upside as an athlete. He possess plus speed, as shown by his 22 stolen bases so far on the season. Crawford is 22, however, so it’s though to really project him going forward considering he’s still in High-A ball this year. Chances are he doesn’t pan out, but the Yankees didn’t mind taking a flier on the kid being the fourth piece going back to them in this trade.
From the Cubs’ perspective
This trade probably wasn’t an easy one for Theo Epstien and company to swallow, but they felt they needed to solidify the back end of their bullpen to really make them World Series contenders this year. Just how much this will improve the overall performance of the team remains to be seen, but they gave up a hefty price to acquire the left-hander. The price is especially hefty when you remember that Chapman is simply a rental, and will be hitting the free agent market at the end of the season. However, aside from Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs haven’t had a reliable arm at the back end of the bullpen. This trade now gives them a great one-two punch between Chapman and Rondon, and takes a burden off of their starters since they don’t have to go as deep into starts. Chapman is also a far better ninth inning man than Rondon, and perhaps the best lefty relief pitcher in baseball (though that Andrew Miller guy is pretty darn good, too). The best team in baseball just got that much better.
The Cubs felt like they had the prospect depth to be able to take a hit to their system like this, and the on-field success of their young stars now can only help them make this decision. It didn’t cost them a Kyle Schwarber type player, but the package is nothing to sneeze at. The price for relief pitchers keeps getting higher, despite the fact that baseball observers value relief pitchers differently than front office executives do. The move takes them out of the race for Andrew Miller, who could still be on the move if the Yankees lose leading up to the deadline. The Nationals seem to be frontrunners for Miller, but given what the Cubs just gave up for half a year of Chapman, one can only imagine what two and a half years of Andrew Miller will cost; the conversation would likely start with Trea Turner.
What to expect next
As mentioned prior, the Yankees’ future might depend on how they do in the games leading up to the trade deadline. At the current moment, they are three games above .500, the first time they can say that all season. Hal Steinbrenner sure doesn’t want to give up on the season unless he absolutely feels the need to, so if they win prior to the deadline, they might hang on to the rest of the gang, excluding a few names. They’ve talked about Ivan Nova, who is a free agent at the end of the year, and all signs point to him getting dealt. He shouldn’t cost a contending team a lot, and they have the arsenal now to replace him in the rotation. In addition to adding Warren, the team also called up Luis Severino.
If the team falters, and they do decide to sell off some pieces, names like Andrew Miller Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Michael Pineda, will all be discussed, possibly along with Brian McCann as well. Beltran has made a great turnaround since his first year with the Yankees in which he hit just a measly .233 with 15 home runs. Do you remember when half a season of Beltran netted the New York Mets Zach Wheeler? Obviously, this is not the same Beltran and he can’t really play the outfield, but they should be able to get something of value in return. In the present author’s opinion, you take that and run with it. He offers no long-term value to the team, and this is the same team that has been trying to take a youthful approach to things. Look at some of their trades in the past two years. Gardner would be an interesting piece to offer the Nationals along with Andrew Miller to bolster the package you can get in return. Though, I highly doubt you could get Turner and Lucas Giolito in return for those two, but why not ask? These Yankees aren’t the ones that we’re used to.