NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Presuming the Los Angeles Dodgers complete a trade for Aroldis Chapman that started breaking Friday night and still hadn’t been finalized 24 hours later -- and assuming they hold onto Chapman rather than spin him off to another team -- new manager Dave Roberts could have a tough early task.
He might have to break it to incumbent closer Kenley Jansen -- who has done nothing to earn a demotion -- that Chapman will be pitching the ninth inning and gobbling up saves that would have gone to Jansen.
The question is intensified by the fact both pitchers will be free agents next November. While setup relievers have closed the pay gap considerably on closers, they still aren’t paid at quite an exorbitant rate. Jonathan Papelbon signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies going into the 2012 season. Last season, Andrew Miller, who had not been a closer up to then, got four years and $36 million from the New York Yankees. Darren O'Day, another setup guy, reportedly is on the verge of completing a four-year, $31 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Dodgers would neither confirm nor deny they are in the process of trading for Chapman and general manager Farhan Zaidi wouldn’t answer a question about whether Jansen’s agent, Adam Katz, had called to find out what was going on.
He did, however, say the front office has considered a slightly different model for the pitching staff going into 2016 now that Zack Greinke has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, diminishing the Dodgers’ dominant starting pitching.
As the Kansas City Royals just demonstrated, a brilliant bullpen can make a brilliant starting rotation unnecessary.
“It’s our job to try to figure out the best and most efficient way to get 27 outs every game,” Zaidi said. “There’s the standard practice to do that that has a lot of advantages that we, by and large, follow with the rest of the teams, but I think every team has some discussions about whether there’s a different way to configure your pen or your starting rotation that might give you an advantage.”
At his news conference Monday afternoon, Roberts was thrust in the uncomfortable position of answering questions about transactions the front office wouldn’t confirm. Asked about the Chapman rumors, he said he would do his best to manage the feelings of the players involved.
“Potentially, you get two of the best closers -- er, back-of-the-game guys -- sharing the same bullpen,” Roberts said. “That’s exciting.”
It is and, presuming it ever actually happens, the only problem might be convincing the players involved how devastating to the opposition it could be.