Not that there was any doubt before today, but the Cubs are officially all in, World Series-or-bust mode for the 2016 season. The team is betting that the short-term PR headache they’re taking on in acquiring Aroldis Chapman will pay dividends in the form of the Cubs first title in over a century.
Chapman was acquired on Monday afternoon from the Yankees in exchange for three prospects and long relief pitcher Adam Warren, who ironically enough was the player the Cubs acquired in exchange for infielder Starlin Castro during the 2016 offseason.
Chapman’s talent has never been in doubt. His character and judgement on the other hand is, to say the least, questionable.
Chapman served a 30-game suspension at the beginning of this season for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy following an offseason incident in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend. Chapman then shot a gun eight times into a garage wall. In the police report, Chapman denied choking her, claiming he poked her and she fell to the ground.
While Chapman was never charged, according to a Chicago Tribune report, “because stories conflicted and changed, according to police and prosecutors.”
Cubs fans are, understandably, conflicted about the deal. While getting a pitcher of Chapman’s caliber is exciting, the idea of rooting for a guy who is alleged to have abused the mother of his child is to say the least not so exciting.
Perhaps anticipating a backlash, the Cubs released a statement attributed to Chapman just after the trade was announced acknowledging his past.
“I regret that I did not exercise better judgment and for that I am truly sorry. Looking back, I feel I have learned from this matter and have grown as a person. My girlfriend and I have worked hard to strengthen our relationship, to raise our daughter together, and would appreciate the opportunity to move forward without revisiting an event we consider part of our past. Out of respect for my family, I will not comment any further on this matter,” he said.
From a purely baseball perspective, this is a fantastic trade for both the Cubs and the Yankees.
The deal shores up a major, major weakness for the Cubs in the form of a bullpen that has been exposed through the middle part of the season. Right now, the Cubs’ pen has a combined ERA of 3.83, middle of the pack in the Major Leagues and, top to bottom, the team’s only real weak spot. In Chapman, they get a guy who is about as solid as anyone in the 9th inning. The four time All-Star has 166 career saves in seven Major League seasons and a career ERA of 2.16. He’s not signed beyond this year though, and if the Cubs can’t find a way to sign him to a long-term deal, they’ll have paid a heavy price for a rental.
Acquiring Chapman meant keeping Kyle Schwarber, something Theo Epstein reportedly insisted on from the get go. However, it meant giving up two of their top seven prospects according to Baseball America, including Gleyber Torres (No. 1) and Billy McKinney (No. 7), who came over with All-Star shortstop Addison Russell from the Athletics in exchange for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel two years ago.
Torres, McKinney, and the third prospect acquired in the deal, outfielder Rashad Crawford, are the future for the Yankees and help rebuild a farm system that was looking rather barren as of late. Warren, meanwhile, helps the team out now as either a swing starter or a long reliever. By getting him in the deal, it means the Yankees haven’t necessarily given up on the 2016 season just yet, given that they’re only 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot with plenty of games left to play.
There’s always the concern that, given the caliber of the prospects the Cubs gave up, maybe they’re betting too much of the future on the present. That being said, it wasn’t as though they were going to get a quality arm of any kind — starting or relief — without having to pay a steep price for it. It’s a deal that makes sense for both teams. The Cubs get a power arm who can provide consistency at the back end of games while the Yankees restock their farm system without totally giving up on this year.
And if this season ends with the Cubs getting a ring, fans won’t spend another second worrying about what they might’ve had in Torres, McKinney and Crawford.
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