R.A. Dickey, Travis d'Arnaud

Blue Jays, Mets finalize seven-player R.A. Dickey trade

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R.A. Dickey passed his physical, clearing the final hurdle for his trade to Toronto. Here’s the official transaction:

Blue Jays acquire RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole and C Mike Nickeas from the Mets for C Travis d’Arnaud, C John Buck, RHP Noah Syndergaard and OF Wuilmer Becerra.

The final two names — those of Nickeas and Becerras — were just revealed today, and that part of the swap certainly favors the Mets. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Nickeas is strictly a third catcher; he’ll be called up to serve as a backup in the event of an injury to J.A. Arrencibia or Thole. Becerra has no track record to speak of — he played in just 11 games in his pro debut last season before getting drilled in the face and suffering a broken jaw — but he’s just 18 and he was a big signing out of Venezuela in 2011.

We also learned that there’s no cash in the deal, meaning that the Mets thought it was worth taking on Buck’s entire salary to get both d’Arnaud and Syndergaard in the deal. Buck was actually slated to be the most expensive player in the deal for 2013; he’s due $6 million, while Dickey was set to make $5 million. However, Dickey will be receiving a bit more now after agreeing to an extension as part of the deal.

That extension rips up Dickey’s previous deal, replacing it with a three-year, $29 million contract that includes a $12 million team option for 2016. It’s a bargain for a reigning Cy Young winner. For comparison’s sake, Zack Greinke will average $24.5 million per season as part of his six-year deal with the Dodgers.

Dickey will head a Toronto rotation also set to include Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Thole will likely serve as the knuckleballer’s personal catcher, with Arencibia handling the rest of the staff.

The Mets, obviously, get less help for 2013. While d’Arnaud may get a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training, expectations are that he’ll spend a couple of months in Triple-A to start the year, pushing back his free agency clock. The Mets will likely go with Buck as a starter and sign a cheap backup, hoping that Buck plays well enough to give himself a little trade value come June or July.

Still, if the Mets felt that had to trade Dickey (though they most certainly didn’t), this isn’t a bad return at all. D’Arnaud has All-Star potential and should be a solid regular at worst. Syndergaard, a 2010 supplemental first-round pick, is one of the game’s top 25 pitching prospects. He’ll open 2013 in high-A ball and perhaps contribute in 2014. Becerra is a lottery ticket.

The Jays are now the obvious favorites in the AL East, barring a surprise blitz from the Yankees. There are still some question marks in the bullpen, but the lineup could challenge for the AL lead in runs and the rotation is as talented as any in the league.

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.