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.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.
Mariners’ right-hander Arquimedes Caminero is nearing a deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The club has reportedly agreed to sell the 29-year-old’s contract, Dutton writes, though no official move has been announced by either team yet. Caminero is under club control through 2020 and currently ineligible for arbitration.
The right-hander began the 2016 season with the Pirates but was sent to the Mariners in a trade for Seattle minor leaguers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez in order to clear space in the Bucs’ bullpen. With the Mariners, Caminero produced a 3.66 ERA and 8.2 K/9 through 19 2/3 innings in the second half of the year. Although he boasts an electric fastball, one which consistently averaged 98.7 m.p.h. in 2016, his success rate has been tempered by poor control throughout his major league career. According to Dutton, the Mariners’ willingness to sell Caminero’s contract was a strong indication that they did not see him as a viable contender for their 2017 bullpen or as a potential trade chip further down the line.
Should the deal go through, the right-hander will be the second former Mariner to sign with a Japanese club for the 2017 season. Per Dutton’s report, outfielder Stefen Romero also picked up a contract with the Orix Buffaloes of NPB in late November.