Angels not counting on Escobar, may go after Halladay

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Kelvim Escobar went from the disabled list to the rotation to the
bullpen and then back to the DL in the span of about a week last month,
and now Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports that he “hasn’t picked up a baseball in weeks and has to be considered a long shot to pitch again this season.”

General manager Tony Reagins said yesterday that Escobar is still
experiencing “a deep ache” in his surgically repaired shoulder, adding:
“We wanted him to back off and that’s what he’s doing. We’re not
writing him off, by any means. We’re going to move forward cautiously.
If we get him back, great. If we don’t get him back, then we don’t get
him back.”

On a related note, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports
that the Angels “are looking for late-inning relief help” and have
targeted Scott Downs and Brandon League of the Blue Jays, Chad Qualls
of the Diamondbacks, and Rafael Betancourt of the Indians. And of
course DiGiovanna also notes that the Angels would be interested in a
front-of-the-rotation starter like … drum roll please! … Roy
Halladay.

In laying out potential deals for Halladay yesterday Matthew Pouliot speculated
that the Angels could give up Jordan Walden, Brandon Wood, Trevor
Reckling, and Matt Sweeney. On the other hand, DiGiovanna writes that
“Halladay would probably cost the Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, a top
pitching prospect such as Trevor Reckling or Jordan Walden, top hitting
prospect Brandon Wood and a young big leaguer such as Erick Aybar or
Howie Kendrick.”

Halladay is an exceptionally good pitcher and the Blue Jays should
be holding out for an exceptionally good package of players in return
for him, but there’s just no way that their asking price is anything
close to Weaver, Reckling/Walden, Wood, and Kendrick/Aybar if they
actually want to make a deal. For one thing, Weaver is 26 years old,
has a 3.60 career ERA, makes the MLB minimum, and is under the Angels’
control through 2012.

Does anyone think that upgrading from Weaver to Halladay–who’s 32
years old, makes about 40 times as much money, and becomes a free agent
after next season–is worth Wood, Walden, and
Kendrick? If the Blue Jays want prospects like Walden or Wood, they can
get them. If the Blue Jays want young major leaguers like Weaver or
Kendrick, they can get them.

But as the deals for Dan Haren, Johan Santana, CC Sabathia, Josh
Beckett, and various other top starters and the rumored offers for Jake
Peavy have shown in recent years asking for a couple of choice names
from Column A and a couple of choice names from Column B just isn’t how
these things tend to work.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.