Ken Rosenthal talked to a rival scout about the chance of Cincinnati Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman joining the starting rotation, and the scout wasn’t exactly a fan of the transition:
“I hope they do start him, but they’re crazy if they do,” said the scout, who works for another National League club. “It’s Joba Chamberlain all over again.
“His velocity dropped off in the second inning. He couldn’t get his off-speed stuff over the plate consistently. No question in my mind, he’s the closer.”
Chapman averaged 97.7 MPH on his fastball last season, the second-fastest among all relievers, trailing only Kelvin Herrera of the Kansas City Royals (98.5). He finished the year with a 1.51 ERA and 38 saves in 71.2 innings of work.
The scout is referencing the Yankees pitcher who bounced between the bullpen and the rotation since making his Major League debut in 2007. The Yankees went to great lengths to protect his arm, which led to the moniker “Joba Rules” for their refusal to use him on consecutive days.
Though a closer more often than not pitches in some of the most important situations during a game, it is hard to overcome the value of pitching 175-200 innings. John Smoltz, a common point of comparison for starters-turned-relievers or relievers-turned-starters, posted 1.1, 3.2, and 2.2 Wins Above Replacement as a reliever between 2002-04 according to Baseball Reference. Despite the aggregate 2.47 ERA and 144 saves, his best season as a reliever (2003) ranks as his 12th-best season by WAR.
Chapman would have to become more or less average as a starter for the Reds to lose value moving him to the rotation. The average National League starter posted a 4.04 ERA last season.
Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are closing in on a deal with catcher Matt Wieters. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that it’s a two-year deal. UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is for two years, at $21 million. There is an opt-out for him after year one. He will get $10 million in 2017 and, if he returns in 2018, he’ll get $11 million.
Wieters was not expected to go this long without signing, but his market, which many thought would be robust, never materialized. The Nats had been rumored to be interested for months, but they were apparently waiting to swoop in late and get what one presumes will be a bargain.
Wieters, 30, finished last season hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 464 plate appearances. The Nationals currently have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, so who falls where in the catcher fight in Washington is unclear, but one presumes that Wieters getting a two-year deal puts him at the top of the depth chart.
Ken Rosenthal has an interesting story up about Sergio Romo as he begins spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There is some fun stuff about his family, all Dodgers fans from southern California, but the more notable stuff is about Romo himself, who has dealt with a lot more than has been reported over the past couple of seasons. The loss of three of his four grandparents is a big one, as it has thrust the mantle of head of the family on Romo in ways that he was not fully prepared for. There are also allusions to personal and psychological problems Romo has experienced — there is a vague suggestion of alcohol or maybe just late nights out and perhaps depression, but he is not specific about it — which he worked on with the help of friends and teammates on the Giants and which he now has overcome.
There’s always more going on the lives of baseball players than we as fans know.