Six Possible Landing Spots for Aroldis Chapman
Since being called up in 2010, Aroldis Chapman has generated a lot of buzz. He throws straight gas and has been one of the best closers in baseball in recent memory. Chapman has notched 121 saves during his time with the New York Yankees. This year he has closed out 26 games while sporting a 2.50 ERA.
This begs the question, why in the world would the Yankees trade him? Last week, it was reported that Chapman was considering opting out of his contract after this season. While he has refuted this, it definitely gets the wheels turning about what the closer’s future is this season. The Yankees bullpen has been one of the best in baseball. While Chapman has been a big factor in that, his possible unwillingness to commit to the Yankees long-term could result in the southpaw being dealt, especially since the Yankees are looking for another elite-level starting pitcher.
Below is a list of six teams, one from each division, that could put together a solid package for the services of Aroldis Chapman.
NL East: Atlanta Braves
The more one talks about a possible Chapman deal for the NL East leaders, the more it makes sense. The Atlanta Braves are currently tied for fourth in the league in both saves and save opportunities. This means that the Braves are winning close games and have the bullpen to thank for that. Part of that impressive bullpen has been closer Luke Jackson, who sports 17 saves and a 3.12 ERA. While those are solid numbers, Jackson, like a lot of the Atlanta bullpen, is young and lacks postseason experience. Adding a closer like Aroldis Chapman could be the type of boost the Braves need to make a deep postseason run.
Whom would they give up? Dallas Keuchel. In early June, Atlanta signed the 2015 AL Cy Young winner to a one-year deal and in seven starts, he’s been sound. He is 3-3 with a 3.50 ERA. The Yankees were one of the teams interested in signing the bearded southpaw until he finally signed with Atlanta. Furthermore, the Braves bullpen currently contains two arms with starter experience who have pitched well this season — Sean Newcomb and Josh Tomlin.
With both Chapman and Keuchel potentially hitting the free agent market in 2020, this could be the perfect deal.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals get the nod merely by the process of elimination. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are fading, and while Chapman to Milwaukee would be insane, the Brewers don’t have the ace caliber pitcher that the Yankees would ask for in exchange for their All-Star closer. A team who does have a couple of ace-caliber pitchers they could send to the Bronx is the Cubs, but I doubt the North Siders would entertain a reunion with Chapman.
This leaves the Cardinals, who are currently running stride-for-stride with Chicago for the NL Central lead. Their current closer is former starter Carlos Martinez, and while he’s serviceable, it’s hard to believe that the St. Louis front office wouldn’t pull the trigger if Aroldis Chapman were on the table.
Whom might the Cardinals give up? It’s a stretch, but Michael Wacha might be exactly whom the Yankees would want in return. Wacha is another former starter who has been exiled to the St. Louis bullpen. He was the 2013 NLCS MVP and an NL All-Star in 2015. All those accolades came as a starter. Even last year, Wacha was 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA over 15 starts, so the potential is certainly there.
NL West: San Diego Padres
The NL West is another toughie. The Diamondbacks might have Zack Greinke on the block, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be willing to go for a one-for-one swap for Chapman. The Giants have Madison Bumgarner but are unlikely to trade him. If Rich Hill of the Los Angeles Dodgers was set to be back from injury earlier, Los Angeles would have been the choice. That just leaves the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres, and the former doesn’t have an elite ace.
Neither does San Diego, for that matter, but what the Friars do have is Kirby Yates. The Padres closer leads the league in saves this season and won’t be a free agent until 2021. If Chapman is on his way out, then adding an arm that’s just as good and is under team control for another season may be the right move. It would be on New York to get this deal done though, because more prospects would likely be needed for San Diego to move Yates.
AL East: Tampa Bay Rays
No team is more flippant about starting pitching than the Tampa Bay Rays. With 2018 AL Cy Young Winner Blake Snell going down with an injury, the Rays have just one starter listed in their rotation. That starter is back-to-back AL All-Star and 2017 World Champion Charlie Morton. The righty is 12-3 with a 2.60 ERA this season and is signed through 2021. Tampa Bay easily could punt on the concept of a starting pitcher and trade their Cy Young candidate for Aroldis Chapman, who would effectively take over as the ace of the Rays staff.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
It was just three seasons ago that the Yankees first traded Aroldis Chapman. They were also shopping Andrew Miller. Chapman ended up with the Cubs and Miller ended up with the Cleveland Indians. If the Bronx Bombers deal Chapman a second time, they could very well be dealing with a familiar trade partner in Cleveland.
The Indians currently have an ace-caliber pitcher in Trevor Bauer who has been rumored to be on the move at the deadline. They also have emerging young arms like 2019 All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac. A move at the deadline for an elite closer like Chapman could be a perfect low-risk, high-reward move for Cleveland.
AL West: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros have been one of the best teams in baseball this season. Their season is even more impressive when considering that Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jose Altuve have missed significant time with injuries. Another impressive aspect of Houston’s season has been Wade Miley. The lefty is 8-4 with a 3.18 ERA over 21 starts this season and is signed to just a one-year, $4.5 million deal. The Astros don’t need a closer, as Roberto Osuna has been strong, but their bullpen can be even stronger if they sell high on Miley and add Chapman.
Aroldis Chapman Outlook
Will the Yankees trade Aroldis Chapman? This author says no, but that is the great thing about the trade deadline. Anything can happen.
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