Offseason rumblings: Aroldis Chapman could be heading to the Reds' starting rotation

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

After three major-league seasons as a reliever and a debate of at least as long, Aroldis Chapman could be headed into the Cincinnati Reds' rotation. The club was reported Monday to be well into negotiations to sign their free-agent reliever, Jonathan Broxton. If finalized, the signing would allow Broxton to take over the ninth inning and free Chapman – if GM Walt Jocketty deems it so – to become a starter for the first time as a big leaguer.

Chapman's preference is to start. The club was at least considering it last spring, when Chapman prepared in March as a starter. Then Nick Masset's shoulder went bad and Ryan Madson's elbow blew. By April, Chapman was setting up for Sean Marshall, a month later Chapman was pitching the ninth inning, and by September he had 38 saves, a 1.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 71⅔ innings.

What's best for Chapman and the Reds – Chapman as a starter or Chapman as a reliever – has been kicked around in Cincinnati since January 2010, when the Reds signed the Cuban defector to a six-year, $30.25 million contract. By the end of the last spring training, when it seemed the Reds were leaning toward Chapman as a starter, manager Dusty Baker was annoyed by the questions and Chapman would merely shrug.

"Well, I don't know," he'd said. "I think I can be in the rotation. I don't know. That's not my decision. In the end, that's a decision I cannot make."

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Circumstances warranted Chapman's return to the bullpen, where he was virtually unhittable save for a two-week period in June and a slight wobble in September. So, the Reds choose between the known (a great closer) and the unknown (an inexperienced starter), but seemed to be nearing a decision through negotiations with Broxton. Of course, that won't end the debate of Chapman's worth over 70 innings vs. his worth over 200 innings, his stuff over 70 innings vs. his stuff over 200, and which role more exposes his left arm to injury.

In the rotation he'd join Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo, and that would be very good. Or, he'd pitch the ninth in what last season was the best bullpen in the National League. The Reds could hardly get it wrong. Unless, you know, they do.

And then …

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