The Yankees have been the stealth team of the Major League Baseball offseason thus far. Earlier this month they swooped into the middle of the Ben Zobrist deal to Chicago, and acquired second baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs, giving New York a much needed answer at second base. On Monday they pulled off another swift trade, by acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman and his expiring contract from the Cincinnati Reds for four young prospects.
Chapman clearly fills a hole in the Yankees pen after the club traded away Justin Wilson to the Tigers for minor leaguers Chad Green and Luis Cessa. More importantly he gives the Yankees a logjam for the ninth inning role. Obviously, Andrew Miller earned the right to start Spring Training as the Yankees closer, having saved 36 games and pitching to a 2.04 ERA.
Yet, Miller had never been a full time closer until last season, and has been best known as a middle reliever who can come in a tight spot in the seventh and eighth inning. The Yankees thought Dellin Betances would have been the closer last Spring Training, but he fit so well into the set-up man role that they left him there to hold down 29 games, while striking out 131 in 84 innings.
Therefore it would surprise no one if Chapman ends up getting the opportunity to close at some point. The guy has been one of the most dominant relievers in the game with a fastball that reaches into the 100s, and breaking pitches in the 90s. In short, he's one nasty dude. Not to mention Chapman has complied 546 strikeouts in 319 innings, and 146 saves too boot.
Nothing wrong with plenty of options. The Yankees now have three legitimate relievers who can close down games for the team at any time. Not to mention Chapman's addition means that the Yankees potentially shorten the game to a six inning contest, where their already questionable rotation just has to keep the game close until the later innings.
Off the field however, the move will raise eyebrows. Chapman is being investigated for an October 30 incident involving alleged choking and punching of his girlfriend and shooting off eight rounds in a garage. He also could face a suspension of up to 45 days from Major League Baseball for the gun incident. While he is talented, it comes with a great risk because there is no telling what kind of trouble he could get into further once the investigation is completed.
But as they say, sometimes the greatest risk brings the greatest rewards. This is a no-brainer, especially for a one-year rental.