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.