On Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Reds are open to trading Aroldis Chapman. Most people assumed that if the Reds made a move it would involve one of their starting pitchers. However, could dealing Chapman provide a big enough return to help the Reds boost a slumping offense? C. Trent Rosecrans quoted Walt Jocketty as saying, “I’ll listen to anything that makes sense.” It was a disappointing season for the Reds. A year after getting beaten by Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Game (I can still hear the chants of CUETO – CUETO), the Reds finished 76-86, 12 games out of a Wild Card spot.
So while the Reds appear to be open to trading Chapman, the question is: Should they?
Chapman was one of the few bright spots this season for the Reds. His 17.67 SO/9 was the best rate ever for a pitcher who pitched at least 50 innings (he also holds the fifth- and sixth-best seasons in history for SO/9) His 0.89 FIP was the third-best season in history by this measurement (again with a minimum of 50 IP).
While Chapman was very good, the Reds offense was very bad. The Reds ranked thirteenth in the National League in runs per game (3.67), runs (595), RBI (562), and walks (415). They finished fourteenth in the National League in batting average (.238), OBP (.296), and OPS (.661). They did lead the NL in sacrifice hits, though! You have to imagine that the Reds are banking on a fully recovered Joey Votto and a bounce-back season from Jay Bruce to up the offensive production.
Even if Votto and Bruce can be what they once were, however, it’s obvious that the Reds need to fill quite a few holes in the roster. Looking at Wins Above Average by Position on Baseball Reference does not invite confidence. Even with Chapman, the Reds’ bullpen came in at -5 WAA for 2014. The outfield also left a lot to be desired. The Reds had a LF WAA of -2.5 and a RF WAA of -3.3. Cincinnati’s grand total WAA for non-pitchers was 0.1. Numbers like those make me obsessively check MLB Trade Rumors, praying that the Reds have traded for Yoenis Cespedes.
So back to our original question. Should the Reds trade Aroldis Chapman? If he’s unwilling (or unable) to become a starter, then I think the answer has to be yes. A closer is a luxury. Unless the Reds improve their offensive production, Chapman will not have the opportunity to make much more of a contribution. He is under team control through 2017, and his $8-million price tag for next season would be a bargain given what elite relievers have gone for in the current market (Andrew Miller got four years and $36 million; David Robertson nabbed $46 million over the same term). A contending team in need of a closer would be willing to offer quite a bit for Chapman at the price.
Should the Reds trade Chapman? They probably should. Do I want them to? As a fan, I don’t. There are few things like the buzz that goes around Great American Ballpark when Chapman comes into the game. I still get goose bumps watching the scoreboard after every pitch he throws to see if he hit triple digits again. However, for the good of the franchise in the long term, it might be time for the Cuban Missile to take flight out of Cincinnati.
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