As all the national guys and some Chicago beat folks continued to confirm each other’s reports, the final stages of the trade for Aroldis Chapman went down overnight and into the morning.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 25, 2016
The initial reaction I had last night can be found in this previous blog as the trade talks went down, but I can summarize it as saying I don’t like the trade. My dislike is not due to baseball reasons, but moral reasons, although I do not expect everyone to share my morals, so I’ll just direct you to Stacey’s article here. I will just hope that the Chicago Cubs will provide a very transparent statement as to their thinking when considering such a controversial acquisition, and thank goodness that the ballpark has metal detectors now (I sort of kid because I doubt the players go through a screening when they report to work).
UPDATE 11:27 AM: The four-for-one is clarified:
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) July 25, 2016
As for the other baseball-relevant stuff, let’s parse it bit by bit…
Aroldis Chapman has always been used as a ninth-inning guy, and most teams have a greater than 95% win record when leading after nine innings. However, Chapman’s presence would push strong relievers like Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon down, allow for more matchups and mix-matches, and basically turn every game into a five-inning affair with the solid-to-elite starting pitching always going at least five innings on the vast majority of days.
I also get deciding to part with a Gleyber Torres for an impact player, even though Torres is high on everyone’s (and I mean everyone’s) top prospect list, not just on the Cubs. The MLB Cubs are pretty much set with a great core group for the next several seasons, and that gives the Cubs time to cultivate more talent to replenish or replace that core over those seasons. The Cubs are so deep in their system that just when we think they have graduated all their good players, another one pops up, then another. This is a system that can afford to part with a top prospect and still be alright, unlike when they traded the farm for Matt Garza.
So while it’s debatable whether Torres was moved for the right player, it’s not a devastating blow. And while the other players had their time in the limelight, too, I guess that’s just what the market is these days. It is also possible that I have over-valued the Cubs’ prospects, and the front office has more information on their side than I do as a simple blogger. It does seem like there is a lot of debate over just how good the prospects are, and how much one should value Chapman’s production as a primarily one-inning reliever. Regardless, every prospect that didn’t change teams moves up a notch. And now THEY are the ones in play when the Cubs attempt to find a new pitcher or other piece later on in August or this offseason.
And while the price still feels hefty for a rental, I get the idea behind doing it anyway, not just for the bullpen setup, but also because no other team can get Chapman until the offseason now. This means the other contenders like the Washington Nationals or San Francisco Giants (who have their own share of bullpen issues) can’t use Chapman late in games, and if the Cubs get to the World Series, the American League opponent can’t either. So I think there’s some value in that. And considering that some believe that the package the Cubs sent wouldn’t have been nearly enough to get Andrew Miller, I get why they decided to go with Plan B.
— Rice Cube (@CubicSnarkonia) July 25, 2016
Speaking of the Nationals and Giants, given the importance of home field advantage in the playoffs (at least through the pennant, thanks a lot MLB and Aledmys Diaz and Johnny Cueto), and how close the other teams are to the Cubs’ current record, it stands to reason that the marginal wins come into play here. Yes, the Cubs have a large division lead, but you can see a situation where they could be overtaken by a Nationals team that remembered they were supposed to be good, or a Giants team that’s fueled by even-year magic. Having home field throughout the National League playoffs is a big deal, and re-manipulating an already-good bullpen into a great bullpen puts more wins in play for the Cubs.
Then again, the bullpen and pitching doesn’t matter if the Cubs can’t score runs, which will happen from time to time (and was quite maddening for a stretch where it seemed like they couldn’t score at all). This will happen in a short series, and we can’t predict when the offense will just shut down. A super bullpen like the Kansas City Royals built can be very powerful in the playoffs, but like every other aspect of playoff baseball (or even regular baseball), there are no guarantees. The only thing that the Cubs front office did here is buck the odds, so keep that in mind.
The lack of an extension means that those of us who are uneasy about this acquisition for justifiable reasons don’t have to deal with Aroldis Chapman past November unless the Cubs intend to extend him independent of the trade (which was always going to happen anyway since Chapman was a free agent and the right to extend is a crappy bargaining chip in trades). Depending on your personal moral compass, you’re either going to cheer him on with the rest of the team like nothing happened, or it’s going to feel very strange and very dirty. I can’t tell you how to feel, and I’ve already told you how I feel.
As a baseball move, it has merits. But once the game ends, in which we hope that the Cubs are the victors, how will we react? That will always be in the background of any story from here on out. I think Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done their due diligence on the baseball side, and I hope they’re perceptive enough to realize why a lot of us don’t care about the baseball side right now. Then again, this is a front office that fired Rick Renteria after doing a good job to get Joe Maddon (which I admit is not the same thing), that shows more loyalty to the organization and their plan and process than to its employees or fan base. This reeks of a case of, “Let’s just get this guy and worry about the fallout later.”
I will continue to operate on the assumption that the front office knows what it’s doing and has already assessed how it will conduct damage control, but at this point the whole thing about looking for players with good makeup kind of loses its luster. It becomes, “We’ll look for guys with good makeup unless he’s just really really really good at this one thing we like.” It is also difficult to not see this as a slap to the face to a good half of the Cubs’ fanbase because Theo and Jed have shown that they don’t necessarily care about employing a potential abuser.
Anyway, the trade is done. I will always root for the Cubs, but I hope you don’t begrudge me that I feel a lot less joy in the late innings of victories now.
UPDATE 1:10 PM: It’s an official trade at this point:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 25, 2016
Along with the prior trades we saw for pitchers like Drew Pomeranz, the market seems skewed towards sellers, so our evaluation of prospect and commodity values apparently need to adjust. The package given up is painful, but with Torres considered by many as the only elite prospect in the deal, I guess it’s one of those deals the Cubs have to make if we were operating in a vacuum. But as you can tell by how we perceive Aroldis Chapman’s character now, we aren’t operating in a vacuum, so it hurts a lot more than it normally would.
UPDATE 2:35 PM: Officially official…
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 25, 2016
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 25, 2016
Postmortem later, movies tonight. Enjoy your day, folks.
UPDATE 7/26 3:50 PM: As expected, Clayton Richard is the sacrificial lamb:
#Cubs DFA Clayton Richard to open roster spot for Chapman
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 26, 2016
Also, Chapman is a goddamned idiot and probably still remorseless, and the Cubs public relations department needs all kinds of work to stay on the same page because this is BAD.
Chapman, through translator, says he woke up from nap when Theo/Ricketts called and has no specific memory re: off-field expectations talk.
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) July 26, 2016
You’d think he’d have enough awareness to make something up, or that whoever his interpreter is could improvise even if a reporter from Telemundo or ESPN Deportes can figure it out. What a mess. Have fun with damage control, Cubs.
UPDATE 7:40 PM: Stan took a crack at interpreting the Chapman interview and it turned out not to be horrible:
— WorldSeriesDreaming (@WSDreaming_Cubs) July 26, 2016
Not horrible but you can understand why we might have a weird taste over this whole situation. Here’s to Chapman pitching well and staying out of trouble.