The New York Yankees are not, overall, an elite team. Their sluggers are aging, their starting pitchers are highly questionable, and their defense is, for the most part, pretty average. But in one spot, the Yankees are good – historically good. That one spot is the bullpen. And it just got better.
The Yankees certainly didn’t set out to improve their bullpen this offseason. If anything, they were expected to send one of their relievers elsewhere. But when domestic violence allegations blew up a trade that would have sent elite Red closer Aroldis Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Yankees saw the chance to get a bargain-basement price on a potentially valuable asset. And they pounced.
For the Reds, unloading Chapman was about getting anything they could for damaged goods. For the Yankees, snagging Chapman was about getting a high-upside player for pennies on the dollar. Who made the best move relative to their circumstances? Let’s take a look.
Yankees get: RP Aroldis Chapman
Reds get: RHP Rookie Davis, 3B Eric Jagielo, RHP Caleb Cotham and 2B Tony Renda
Aroldis Chapman: Chapman is among the game’s best closers – he had a 1.63 ERA and was worth 2.7 WAR last season – but his value took a serious hit when he was accused of domestic violence. Now he’s likely to serve a suspension next year. It’s possible (though unlikely) that Chapman’s suspension could be long enough to delay his free agency by a year. If he accrues enough service time, though, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the 2016 season.
Rookie Davis: Davis is a right-handed pitching prospect. He’s just 22, but he was one of the Yankees’ top ten prospects. Given the high value most teams are putting on pitching prospects these days, Davis should probably be considered the centerpiece of this deal.
Eric Jagielo: Jagielo is a 23-year-old minor leaguer. He’s one of the Yankees best ten prospects, and along with Davis, forms the core of the Reds’ return here. His age lines up well with the Reds’ plans to compete in three years or so.
Caleb Cotham: Cotham is a pitcher who just turned 28. He pitched 9.2 inning in relief for the Yankees last year and got clobbered for a 6.52 ERA; other than that, he’s been in the minors his whole career. Cotham might join the Reds bullpen in this coming season, but he’s not the main attraction here.
Tony Renda: Renda, a minor-leaguer, is 24. Renda has some upside, but like Cotham, he’s not really the centerpiece of this deal.
Grading the Trade
New York Yankees: A
Aroldis Chapman is, in all likelihood, a bad man who did bad things. But from a purely baseball standpoint, the Yankees did very well in this trade. They leveraged their advantage and took Chapman off of the Reds’ hands for a relatively light price. If Chapman’s suspension plays out as expected, the Yankees will get him for part of the year and will have given up relatively little to do so. And if the suspension is long enough to delay Chapman’s free agency, then this will be an absolute steal for the Yankees. It’s a low-risk, high-reward move, and the Yankees were smart to make it.
Cincinnati Reds: B+
The Reds say they didn’t change the asking price for Chapman after the domestic abuse allegations surfaced. Looking at the return they got from the Yankees, that’s very hard to believe.
It’s easy to look at the four minor leaguers that the Yankees sent and say that the Reds blew it here, but that’s really not the case. The Reds were put into an impossible situation thanks to reprehensible actions by Chapman, and they still managed to get at least some return on him. Pitching prospects are highly valued in today’s market, and the Reds got one. Jagielo is a good get, too. This isn’t the return that the Reds had hoped for, but that’s on Chapman, not on the Reds.