A Quick Baseball-Only Breakdown of the Chapman Trade

So a thing has happened with the Cubs. They have officially traded for flame-throwing lefty closer Aroldis Chapman. In return, they gave up the exorbitant package of Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.

Before I get into any breakdown on the trade, I want to make something explicitly clear. This is an analysis of the baseball deal, not of the individuals involved. That means I will not at any point be discussing who Aroldis Chapman is as a person. It is not my job to do that. To be perfectly honest, I’m not even qualified to write about something as serious as domestic violence. Evan has already many great pieces (or at least one moderately acceptable piece) on it. Just wanted to get that out of the way.

In terms of the trade? I really a) don’t like it; b) really don’t like it; c) actually loathe it; d) kinda hate it. The Cubs get two months (there may be a contract extension in the works, but as of press time it’s still a rental agreement) of a closer for a top 30 prospect (Torres), a guy who was a top 5 prospect before a knee injury (McKinney), a really confusing pitcher (Warren), and a fringe guy (Crawford).

Let’s just get to the breakdown, shall we?

Who the Cubs got

Aroldis Chapman:

I don’t even need to go to his Brooks Baseball page for this one. He throws heat like no one has ever thrown heat before. Literally. His fastball average in his last few appearances? 103 mph. That is not an error. In terms of his numbers, he’s been shut-down good, to the tune of a 2.01 ERA and a 1.93 FIP. In 31.1 innings (after serving a 30-game suspension), he’s allowed only 7 earned runs.

Where does he slot in the pen? He’s got the 9th, there is virtually no way he doesn’t. When the Yankees got him, he jumped ahead of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. He’s also jumping ahead of Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon. In terms of what it does for the 2016 Chicago Cubs, it’s undeniable that his impact is going to be felt.

Who the Cubs gave up

Before I continue with the next few paragraphs, I feel the need to re-state something: I do not like this trade. Not at all. That doesn’t mean I think Theo Epstein is a bad GM President of Baseball Operations or that this is screwing the Cubs forever in terms of what they gave up, even if I think they gave up a lot. It’s just…I don’t like it.

Okay, now that that’s clear, I want to do this in two parts. The first is the individual breakdown and the second is the cluster of the players as a whole.

Gleyber Torres

In many eyes, he was the Cubs’ best prospect and a top 30 prospect in all of baseball. In many eyes, he had no future with the Cubs. Here’s the thing and ultimately the fuel for my hatred of this trade: Why would you deal a player who could be a cornerstone in two years for two months of a closer? That’s what I struggle with. In terms of Torres actually being good? He was hitting something like .330 over the last month at high-A.

He’s also a shortstop, which means he has the flexibility to play just about seven positions. Now let’s go with the argument that he had no spot on this team, even though he’s not coming up for a few years. Why trade him for a rental closer? Why, why, why? Maybe someone has a good answer for me, but I just haven’t come up with it myself.

Adam Warren

A lot of us know about Warren. The stuff is there but the command may not be. He probably didn’t have a role with the Cubs considering he was wavering between starter and reliever. I think he can go to NY, get into the rotation, and steady himself.

Billy McKinney

He was a top 5 prospect before he hurt his knee and he has a lot of questions. Where is he going to end up? Is the power going to play in the majors? I don’t think the Cubs really needed to find out the answers. The potential is still there and who knows, maybe he’ll be starting in left field in the Bronx next year.

Rashad Crawford

This is the guy I know least about. All of the tweets I read about him said he was a guy whose tools all played at the fringe level. So, I mean, sure. Why not? I guess the Yankees really needed a 4th guy? I’ll leave you with this as a summary of Crawford.

As a whole

I really don’t get this trade. Not one bit. The Cubs already got the lefty arm they coveted in Mike Montgomery. Now they go out and get a closer in Chapman. They have a closer, and one of the best at that. Rondon is perfectly capable of handling the 9th. Believe it or not, he has a lower ERA than Chapman. So why do the deal? I guess the answer is that the Cubs have now made the game effectively 6 innings. But they gave up a lot of value for this benefit. Is it really worth it? We shall see.

I have to touch on Brian Cashman before closing this thing out. Dude’s a damn genius. He has effectively traded Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo, Tony Renda, Caleb Cotham and two months of Aroldis Chapman for Torres, Warren, McKinney, Crawford, Starlin Castro and three months of Chapman. Wow. Just wow. Well done sir.

To wrap it up, the Cubs got a really great closer but for a substantial cost. How do you feel about this as a baseball move? Like it? Dislike it? Sign him to an extension? All I know is I’m very conflicted.



  1. I’m just praying that they are able to sign him to an extension. If they can’t it’s a horrible trade, if they can, I’m OK with it.

  2. I was originally ok if it included an extension and had the same general thought of you if they didn’t. It seems there WERE talks of an extension and who knows, maybe Theo got some assurances or they hope once here, the Fowler/Heyward/Ross/Rizzo welcome wagon will give them an edge in resigning? Regardless, it was pointed out that Chapman does nothing really increase Cubs chances of winning the division. I wish I could remember who, but someone calculated he could be worth a win in a single playoff series. That WOULD be significant.

    But, in the post season, he suddenly gives you the luxury of burning Travis Wood, and Monty for an early exit by a starter without really impacting the late inning pen for the next game. And, although Rondon has looked better in July he hasn’t been as dominating as last year. Could you imagine how suspect the pen would look in a limited playoff (don’t forget we just got swept by the Mets before the break) if Rondon or Strop had an injury? We don’t know Montgomery well enough but clearly the Mariners (and the market) didn’t think he was valuable enough to require a Glyber level player. Do you really want to bank on just “above average” arms in a playoff? (And it’s a bit misleading to argue ERA’s when Rondon at 2.44 FIP is significantly different from Chapman’s 1.93)

    McKinney was a one tool player even without his recent problems. Warren had no place to go. As for Torres, exactly WHO else NEEDED a non-roster ready SS prospect that had a shut down arm? I’m not sure in this market there was anyone else who might make that much difference in the playoffs.

    Theo talked about not touching our “prospect inventory” when acquiring Monty. I’m guessing the model is to flip other expensive Cub pieces in the next few years (yes including Arrieta) to continue replenishing the farm with Addison Russell quality pieces. No way we can hold on to ALL our talent for 3 or 4 more years anyway.

    Just a thought.

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