CHICAGO -- In a bold move, the Chicago Cubs changed the dynamic of their bullpen as well as their team by acquiring lefty flamethrower Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees on Monday for four players. The deal has not yet been announced by either team.
Is Chapman -- a pending free agent -- worth four players, including the Cubs' No. 1 prospect, 19 year-old Gleyber Torres? Probably not on paper. It might never be fully known what other teams were offering, though, so judging the deal simply on what the Cubs gave up is shortsighted.
Plus, this was the Cubs' only glaring weakness. They needed Chapman as much, if not more, than any other contender -- and they paid the price to make sure they got him.
Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays gave up their No. 1 prospect in acquiring David Price from the Detroit Tigers at the deadline. Price was purely a rental. Although it is hard to compare a starter and a reliever, Chapman might turn out to be more valuable than Price because of the number of games he could impact come October.
Chapman will undoubtedly take over the ninth inning, which will push Hector Rondon to the eighth. This move helps the sixth and seventh innings as much as it does the ninth. The Cubs are 54-1 when leading after seven innings and 56-1 when leading after eight, but they’re just 7-6 when tied after six innings and 2-5 when tied after seven. There have been numerous other times when a small deficit has ballooned into a bigger one and prevented a Cubs comeback. Now manager Joe Maddon can use his most accomplished relievers -- if he chooses to do so -- in bigger moments, even if the Cubs are not leading in the game.
As for Chapman’s off-the-field issues, the Cubs backed off him in the past while waiting for the process to play out. The Yankees got him for a song last year, compared to what the Cubs just gave up, but the Cubs can hope his troubles are behind him, as all indications out of New York were that he has been a good citizen. He served his 30-game suspension under the domestic violence provision. It’s apparent that many teams were interested in Chapman, and it’s hard to reconcile the Cubs' being the team to back off from a competitive standpoint.
Cubs players, including Anthony Rizzo, dismissed any issues that they might have with Chapman stemming from the on-field incident back in 2014, when Chapman was still with the Reds. One Cubs player reached Sunday night, when the deal was still pending, said it would be “sick” to have Chapman join the Cubs.
If Chapman can help break the longest championship drought in professional sports history, the Cubs will have no complaints, according to the players themselves. Maddon has talked often about the clubhouse culture. You’re almost forced to fit in with this team right now -- it’s that tight.
Adam Warren, who will return to the Yankees in the deal, never looked comfortable in his role with the Cubs. If given a chance as a starter or true swingman, maybe he would have thrived, as he did with the Yankees. Perhaps he needed to know exactly when he would be pitching on a given night -- not everyone adjusts to Maddon’s bullpen style. It’s unfortunate that the Cubs won’t get to see him as a full-time starter, as they will need some rotation help in the coming years, but that’s the price you pay when there is a glaring weakness on a World Series-contending team.
The Cubs did exactly what a team in their position should do to fill an obvious hole: address it in the boldest way possible and don't worry about the cost, especially when the most valuable assets come from the minors. The Cubs got one of the best in the business at what Chapman does. How can anyone argue with that?
Championships take bold moves, and the Cubs just made theirs.