Craig Calcaterra

Aroldis Chapman
Associated press

Done deal: the Yankees acquire Aroldis Chapman from the Reds

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Jack Curry of YES Network reports and Ken Rosenthal and others confirm that the Yankees have acquired reliever Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds for four minor leaguers.

We weren’t expecting this.

A reason we weren’t expecting this or any move involving Chapman is that Chapman is under investigation by MLB for an alleged domestic incident in his home which involved gunshots and choking of his girlfriend. While no criminal charges were filed, the possibility of a suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy still hangs over Chapman’s head. Indeed, this investigation put the kibosh on a trade of Chapman to the Dodgers in early December.

All of which means that either (a) the Yankees are confident that Chapman will not face suspension; or (b) they are willing to take the risk. Which is perhaps less of a risk for them than for some other teams as they already have a solid bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances at the back end. Adding Chapman, even with the risk, would make the Yankees even tougher in the late innings than they already are. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post just noted, Chapman struck out 15.74 batters per nine last year, Miller struck out 14.59 per nine and Betances struck out 14.04. That’s the top three in all of baseball and now they’re together.

So, this could be a Royals-style Death Star bullpen or, alternatively, they could flip Miller or Betances for other needs.

The off-the-field stuff notwithstanding, Chapman is one of the game’s best relievers and is certainly its hardest thrower. He turns 28 years old in February and saved 33 games with a 1.63 ERA and a 116/33 K/BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings in 2015. Across parts of six seasons, Chapman has a career 2.17 ERA. He strikes guys out like it’s going out of style and routinely tops triple digits on the gun.

Heading back to Cincinnati are minor leaguers right-handers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda. Which is not exactly a bumper crop of top prospects, but given Chapman’s baggage it’s understandable that the price has gone down.

 

Cuban pitcher Yaisel Sierra declared a free agent

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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that pitcher Yaisel Sierra, who defected from Cuba in April, has been declared a free agent.

Sierra’s numbers in Cuba were not fantastic, but he impressed a group of scouts and baseball officials during an October workout in Florida. According to Sanchez’s report, however, Sierra didn’t throw his full repertoire of pitches in Cuba and has only recently began to show people that he has a good slider and a changeup. Which if true is sort of weird and may say just as much about Cuban hitters as it does about Sierra. Are they always seeing the good stuff?

That’s for another day, I suppose. For today, know that, in a world where J.A. Happ makes between $30 and $40 million over the course of three years, Sierra is about to make a lot of money.

Dave Henderson, Bobby Dews, Jim O’Toole and Joe Strauss died over the weekend

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 23:  Dave Henderson waves during a pre-game ceremony to honor the 1989 World Series team before the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics Major League Baseball game on June 23, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The baseball world was hit hard over the weekend with the deaths of several members of the baseball community. Red Sox and Athletics outfielder Dave Henderson, Reds pitcher Jim O’Toole, Braves coach Bobby Dews and St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss all passed away over the weekend.

Dave Henderson died Sunday after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 57. He had had a kidney transplant in October. Hendu, as he was known by many, was an excellent hitter who launched one of the most famous home runs in postseason history when he went yard against Donnie Moore in the 1986 ALCS. His blast kept the Red Sox alive in that deciding Game 5 when the Sox were one strike away from elimination. Henderson was not just a one-trick pony, however. He played on four World Series teams and played 14 seasons total in the majors, hitting .275 with 84 homers, 123 doubles and 322 RBIs and posting a line of .258/.320/.436, which works out to an OPS+ of 108.

O’Toole was a really, really fine pitcher for the 1960s Reds, starting Game 1 of the 1961 World Series for Cincinnati after going 19-9 with a 3.10 ERA that year. In all he played ten years in the bigs, winning 98 games and making the All-Star team in 1963. O’Toole was 78 and died of cancer.

Bobby Dews played in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization from 1960 to 1970, appearing in 142 games at the Triple-A level. He went on to manage in the Cards’ minor league system but ended up spending the final 37 of his 53 years in baseball with the Braves’ organization in various capacities, including big league coach and minor league manager, retiring in 2012. He died of natural causes at age 76.

Finally, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss died of leukemia at age 54. Strauss covered all sports in his career, but was best known for his baseball work, serving as a beat writer covering the Orioles, Braves and Cardinals prior to becoming a full-time columnist. Strauss liked to challenge the assumptions of his readers, doing God’s work at rooting out the homerish tendencies of St. Louis sports fans. This got him labeled a troll by some and enraged a few, but that sort of voice is much-needed in sports journalism and no one gave it better voice than he did. More importantly, his work was always top notch. He wrote eloquently on deadline and was always a thought-provoking columnist, never retreating to the cliches or evergreen topics so many of his peers do.

Sad to see those four go. Good to know they will always be remembered.