Aroldis Chapman has been preparing all spring as if he’ll be in the starting rotation, but Paul Daughtery of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Reds have decided to shift him back to the closer role.
Chapman always wanted to remain in the bullpen and manager Dusty Baker wanted to leave him at closer too, so in the end their preferences won out over the front office wanting to see if Chapman could thrive in a 200-inning role instead of a 70-inning role.
Cincinnati spent $21 million on Jonathan Broxton this offseason so he could step into ninth-inning duties and make moving Chapman into the rotation less of an issue for the bullpen, but now they’re paying $12 million per season for a setup duo of Broxton and Sean Marshall.
There have certainly been several instances of a dominant young reliever struggling with a move into the rotation, due to poor performances and/or injuries, but Chris Sale is a recent prominent example of that shift working out brilliantly. Obviously having Chapman around to shut down opponents for 60-70 high-leverage innings as a reliever is hardly some disastrous scenario, but it would have been fun to see if he could follow Sale’s footsteps into No. 1 starter territory instead of becoming a career-long reliever at age 25.
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.