NEW YORK YANKEES
Yankees acquire LHP Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds for four minor league players. On Monday, the Yankees surprisingly traded for the hard throwing Cincinnati closer in exchange for 3B Eric Jagielo, RHP Rookie Davis, RHP Caleb Cotham, and 2B Tony Renda. Chapman, 27, is being investigated by MLB under its new domestic violence policy following an October 2015 incident at his Florida residence. Allegedly, Chapman choked his girlfriend and threw her against a wall during an argument; he then apparently fired 8 shots into his garage. No arrests were made in the aftermath.GM Brian Cashman stated that the Yankees did their “due diligence” with regard to MLB’s ongoing investigation, and that Cincinnati had adjusted their “price point” in recent weeks, following a potential trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that fell through in December.
On the field in 2015, Chapman averaged 100.4 miles per hour with his fastball over 66 1/3 innings – with 116 strikeouts, 33 SVs and a 1.63 ERA. He has struck out an amazing 45% of the batters he’s faced in the last 4 seasons. Chapman is under contract for the ’16 season, and is scheduled to be a Free Agent next offseason.
Heading to the Reds will be the Yankees’ #1 draft pick (26th overall) in 2013, 3B Eric Jagielo. Jagielo has been hampered by injuries to his knee and an oblique over the last two seasons, only playing 143 games. He did play well in 58 games at AA Trenton in ’15, batting .284 with 9 HRs before injuring his knee during a home plate slide in June; he did require arthroscopic surgery on the knee. Jagielo will enter Cincinnati’s organizational pipeline with opportunity, as the Reds traded veteran 3B Todd Frazier to the White Sox in mid-December.
RHP Rookie Davis, 22, was a 14th round pick of the Yankees in 2011. He pitched well in high A Tampa this year, and earned a promotion to AA Trenton. Davis is a large man, at 6’3” and 235 lbs; he throws his fastball in the mid-90s, along with a curveball. His command improved in 2015, and he was added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster at the end of the season.
RHP Cotham, 27, did appear in 12 games for New York this season, and figured to battle for a spot on a roster that already had a number of quality bullpen arms. 2B Renda was acquired by the Yankees from the Nationals this season for RHP David Carpenter; Renda is a contact hitter who is relegated to 2B by the strength of his arm. He was unprotected in the Rule 5 draft during the Winter Meetings, but was unclaimed.
Analysis: GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees seized on the opportunity to acquire one of MLB’s best relievers – at a low price. The Reds are re-shaping their roster and did not want to have a $12.9M (projected arbitration figure) closer on their books in ’16. In essence, this deal is Chapman for Jagielo and Davis…and from that perspective, the Yankees made a well-worthwhile trade, as this potentially one-year move did not cost them a top-end prospect. It fortifies a bullpen that already had, arguably, the best back end in MLB, with RHP Dellin Betances and LHP Andrew Miller. This move may provide Manager Joe Girardi the mid-‘10s version of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys” with LHP Randy Myers, LHP Norm Charlton, and RHP Rob Dibble.
Similar to those Nasty Boys, this Yankee group will throw extremely hard and potentially shorten games for their own injury-prone, less-than-durable starting pitching staff. GM Brian Cashman continues his effort to get younger and re-shape the Yankees…at a lower cost. This is another example of it – the Yankees did not go after a high-end, expensive FA starter or hitter this offseason, but they did leap at an opportunity to pour cost-effective money into their bullpen. Although no decisions have been made, it would appear that Chapman would serve as the closer, with Betances and Miller setting him up in the 7th or 8th depending on matchups. Betances pitched a high number of innings in ’14 and ’15, and his command noticeably started to degrade from August 2015 to the end of the season. After trading LHP Justin Wilson to the Tigers during the Winter Meetings, adding another high-end reliever helps…and provides depth and insurance to a team strength.
Where this trade is a gamble is in the way it is perceived by fans and consumers. There’s simply no tolerance or room for the crime of domestic violence in our society. If MLB Commissioned Rob Manfred is eventually presented with a substantiated violation of the sport’snew domestic violence policy, he will likely, andjustifiably, rule forcefully against Chapman – with that, Chapman may be suspended for a large portion of 2016. If the suspension is longer than 46 days, it will create a scenario where Chapman does not become a Free Agent post-2016 based on his accrued service time. It will also reflect somewhat poorly on the Yankees for their decision to make a baseball-motivated move while a serious legal and administrative issue had not yet been resolved. Stay tuned.
HALL OF FAME
Hall of Fame voting 2016. On Wednesday, 6 January, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWA) will release the results of the voting on the players they considered for induction to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. Look for former Seattle Mariner and Cincinnati Red OF Ken Griffey, Jr. to gain induction on his first ballot for consideration. I think former Dodgers-Marlins-Mets-Padres-A’s C Mike Piazza will also obtain the necessary 75% of the votes this year to gain induction; Piazza had 69.7% of the votes required in ’15. I would like to see former Astros 1B Jeff Bagwell and former Expos-White Sox-Yankees-A’s-Orioles-Marlins OF Tim Raines either achieve induction or get extremely close to the 75% threshold, setting the stage for successful runs in ’17; Bagwell had 55.7% of the required votes in ’15, Raines 55.0%. Raines will have one remaining year of eligibility on the ballot in ’17. I think Marlins-Padres-Brewers RHP Trevor Hoffman will come up short in his first year on the ballot…and I think we will see some further movement in favor of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina on the ballot this year with some 2015 voting eligibility changes that are resulting in a slightly younger voter demographic. The annual Hall of Fame induction will take place on July 24, 2016 in Cooperstown, NY.
Mike Lalor can be heard talking about New York sports on the Spadora on Sports radio program. His blog can be found at SpadoraonSports.com.