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Cincinnati Shuffle: What will the Reds do with Aroldis Chapman?

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Lefty in Limbo (USAT)

We might be smack dab in the middle of spring training, but the Reds are in no major hurry with their pitching plans. Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Mike Leake owners? They'll have to keep waiting, too.

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Okay, Dusty Baker is trying to push this along (and so is Les Nessman). We've got that going for us. Here's what the skipper told the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I’d like to decide soon and get my team together,” Baker said. “I don’t like having guys in the middle. That’s a bad situation when you’re in the middle of anything. An unknown. Then everybody else is in an unknown situation. That’s unfair to him or us — the situation he’s been put in. He was in that same situation last year.

“I’d like to make a decision in the next week or so, so I can get my team together. The decision is not only mine, it’s ours. But I got my opinion.”

It’s pretty clear than Baker prefers Chapman in the closer role.

I don't run the Reds or have a stake in this staff (not yet, anyway), but I can see both sides of the Chapman debate. On one hand, Chapman was a lights-out closer in 2012 (1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 122 strikeouts, 38 saves) and why fix something that's not broken? Then again, if the Reds could ever shift Chapman into a 200-inning role (or thereabouts), it would help the team more, in theory – even if the dominance level came down significantly from the 2012 performance.

We saw a few reliever-to-starter conversion attempts last year, with varying success. Chris Sale hit a home run in Chicago. Daniel Bard fell apart in Boston. Neftali Feliz blew out his elbow in Texas. Pitching is an unnatural act, and projecting pitching is an inexact science. We accept these things up front, it's part of our numbers racket.

Broxton's fantasy value has the highest volatility in Cincinnati right now, depending on what the team does with Chapman. Broxton's in line to be the closer if Chapman keeps a rotation spot, but he'll likely go to the eighth inning if Chapman slides back to the bullpen. Leake could have NL-only value, maybe worth a $4-6 bid, if he gets the rotation slot. He'll have to show something before we make him a mixed-league play.

My gut feeling is that Chapman will get the ninth inning back; Baker will get his way, and the team will decide not to mess with success. Chapman hasn't shown a reliable third pitch yet, and who's to say if he can be consistent in the challenge of starting – where a pitcher can't go all-out with every delivery. I'm not taking Broxton in a draft or auction this week unless the price is a giveaway. But again, I'm not in the clubhouse or privy to the team meetings.

How are you reading the tea leaves? Is Broxton a hidden gem or fool's gold? What should the Reds do with Chapman? Let's discuss it all in the comments.

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