The New York Yankees traded for closer Aroldis Chapman on Monday, shunting aside concerns about an ugly domestic violence incident that could lead to a long suspension and banking on the success of a bullpen that already includes ace relievers Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, a source familiar with the deal told Yahoo Sports.
Chapman, 27, is the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball history, regularly topping 100 mph with his left-handed fastball, setting strikeout-rate records and racking up 145 saves over the last four seasons for the Cincinnati Reds. After a deal sending Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers fell apart during the Winter Meetings amid the Yahoo Sports report of the incident in Chapman’s Florida home, the Reds regrouped, assessed the market and acquired four minor league players from New York.
Right-handed starter Rookie Davis and third baseman Eric Jagielo are the main return for Cincinnati, along with right-handed reliever Caleb Cotham – who pitched for a short time in the big leagues last season – and second baseman Tony Renda. Davis, 22, is a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who last season struck out nearly a batter an inning and posted nearly a 5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Jagielo, 23, is a former first-round pick out of Notre Dame whose inability to stay healthy has hampered him, as has questions surrounding his ability to stay at third base.
It’s far from the sort of haul expected for Chapman, who could reach free agency after the 2016 season. His status depends on the length of his suspension, which could potentially cut into his service time enough to delay free agency a season.
Major League Baseball continues to investigate the case, in which Chapman was neither arrested nor charged with a crime. He admitted to police he fired eight gunshots in his garage after an argument with his girlfriend in which she alleged he choked her.
Multiple executives, in the immediate aftermath of the report, deemed Chapman “toxic.” The Yankees disagreed, and their acquisition of him Monday gives them a handful of options. They could slot him into the ninth inning and back him with Miller and Betances to form perhaps the best back-end bullpen ever. The trio combined for 347 strikeouts in 212 innings during the 2015 season. Or they could flip Miller, as they almost did to the Houston Astros during the Winter Meetings, for more organizational depth.