The dust is still settling in the wake of the Cubs/Yankees trade for LHP Aroldis Chapman. Rumors have been floating for a few weeks about trade discussions between the two clubs for Chapman and who it would possibly take to solidify the deal. Names included in the discussion have reportedly been super-utility infielder, Javier Baez, and slugger, Kyle Schwarber along with a few minor league prospects.
The final deal got Chicago their man at the expense of Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinny, and Rashad Crawford. There’s a lot of opinions on which club came out on top of this trade; with the Cubs acquiring one of the most dominant relievers in baseball for two months and the Yankees walking away with a top prospect and an average pitcher, the Cubs seem to have taken a loss…but not exactly.
The Cubs have an incredibly deep farm system. Losing Torres in the midst of Eloy Jimenez, Ian Happ, Jeimer Candelario, and Albert Almora Jr., to name a few, is hardly worth mourning even if Chapman does not resign with the Cubs once he hits free agency at the end of the current season. With Baez, Addison Russell, and Ben Zobrist available to play shortstop for the next few years, it is unlikely that Torres would ever see the big leagues in a Cubs uniform. Bottom line, the Cubs are stacked and can afford to part with a top prospect in order to address their biggest weakness: relief pitching.
The Chicago Cubs bullpen holds a 3.73 ERA for 7th in the National League. And while that doesn’t look terrible, it’s also notable that the Cubs are 12-15 in one-run games. The bullpen issue was not as apparent early in season when Chicago was breaking games open in the first few innings but as the season progressed and injuries racked up, the inconsistencies started to show.
A specific example, if Jon Lester pitches eight shutout innings and the offense scores six runs, a reliable bullpen should be able to record the final three outs without turning it into a potential save situation. Hector Rondon, the Cubs closer, was good for a 1-2-3 ninth inning until his first blown save seemed to shake his confidence; he blew three more save opportunities in quick succession and has given up ten hits and five earned runs in his last 15 appearances.
Rondon is the most reliable arm in the Cubs bullpen but having a dominant closer like Chapman will take some pressure off him and put him in a good position to be a solid setup reliever behind guys like Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr.
Despite Chapman’s upcoming free agency, the Cubs need him now because they’re making a run for the World Series this year. Not next year. Not the year after. Call him a two-month rental, but in October the Cubs will be better off having Chapman with them than against them. If they didn’t make a move, another team would’ve made a move and it’s likely that the other team would face Chicago in the postseason.
This doesn’t boil down to who won the deal or who didn’t, both teams got what they needed. The Yankees gained a few prospects that the Cubs would’ve likely never used and the Cubs got a proven closer. With Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller still in Yankees uniforms and the Cubs farm system still packed with young talent, neither team is hindered by this trade.