Aroldis Chapman: The Blessed Curse

Aroldis Chapman: The Blessed Curse
Aroldis Chapman traded to the Chicago Cubs. Photo Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

7/27/16 --- After the cloud of trade rumors finally settled early Monday morning, it became clear that the Cubs had acquired the most dynamic bullpen arm in baseball, the Yankees had netted a bevy of prospects in return, and Cubs fans remained more divided throughout the night than Republicans at their recent Cleveland convention.

Amidst all the confusion on Twitter, it may have been hard to find out who was actually traded and who was rumored to be traded. So, here are the details laid out:

CUBS ACQUIRE: LHP Aroldis Chapman

YANKEES ACQUIRE: SS Gleyber Torres, OF Billy McKinney, P Adam Warren, and OF Rashad Crawford

No, that is not a mistake – I did not accidentally leave out another name after Chapman. The Cubs will be receiving the hardest-throwing, most explosive reliever in baseball, there is no doubt about that. However, there are questions among some as to whether Theo and Co. hauled in as much as they could have. This is where Cubs fans find division among each other.

I mean think about, Chapman is a 3-month rental player if he doesn’t sign an extension. And what if the Yankees manage to re-sign him during FA and basically trade away 3-months of a player only to re-acquire him at the end of the season?

But let’s be honest. Torres may be a stinger for those Cubs fans who know who he is and what he could have been here in Chicago; yet past him, the other three were disposable for Theo and Co.

Just to give everyone an idea of what the Cubs gave away…

Gleyber Torres is 19-year-old shortstop out of Venezuela. MLB.com ranked him the 28th best prospect in baseball before this season, and Baseball America ranked him a little lower at 41st. We here at Cubs Prospect Watch ranked Torres the Cubs’ number one prospect before the 2016 season started, and he has done nothing to disprove that ranking thus far. At High-A Myrtle Beach, through 409 PA his slash line looked like this: .275/.359/.433. He had 19 stolen bases, just 3 less than he had throughout all of 2015. Long story short: Gleyber Torres would have been a stud for the Cubs, a la Russell, Baez, and so on.

Billy McKinney was acquired along with Addison Russell in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland back in 2014. Rated MLB.com’s 88th best prospect to start the season, McKinney was never expected to be a power hitter. His best chance at the majors was his ability to get on-base (.366 career minor league OBP). At Double-A Tennessee this year, McKinney hit a bland .252 with just a homer and 31 RBI through 88 G.

Adam Warren, the former and now current Yankee, threw 35.1 relief innings for NY back in 2015, and pitched to the tune of 2.29 ERA. Working with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller at the back-end of the ‘pen last year, Warren was an integral piece during the Yankees Wild Card chase. After being traded to the Cubs for SS Starlin Castro, Warren allowed 23 ER in 35 innings, including one spot start. He allowed 7 homers over his 29 games, and sported a 5.91 ERA.

Rashad Crawford was drafted back in 2012 by the Cubs, and just reached High-A Myrtle Beach this year at the age of 22. Although not a top prospect for the Cubs, he was praised by many scouts as an underrated outfielder, and his .327 OBP this year sits above his .314 career OBP. He really tops off this deal nicely for New York.

So now that you know who they are, why are so many Cubs fans having a hard time watching prospects be shipped off to Seattle and now New York? Part of being a contender means trading away prospects in exchange for major league reinforcements, right?

Well, yeah. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Theo, GM Jed Hoyer, and senior VP of Player Development Jason McLeod have formed no emotional attachments to their prospects, even their top prospects, like Torres. That’s just business. Theo and Co. couldn’t possibly be wringing their hands every time they debate trading a prospect; in other words, they can’t afford to keep a possible future stud just because they “really like him.”

Unlike the Cubs upper-management, fans have a completely different connection to prospects. We have the opportunity to attach emotions to guys like Dan Vogelbach, Gleyber Torres, and more. That is why, amid all the trade rumors, Cubs fans were split on who they would be more disappointed about losing. And that is why many Cubs fans were uneasy about trading away such a package, even though it meant acquiring the best late-inning reliever in the game.

However, while there may be few legitimate concerns regarding the Cubs’ package for Chapman, fans who point to Chapman’s character and past history as egregious blemishes actually have understandable concerns.

Aroldis Chapman isn’t Anthony Rizzo. He’s not going to win any community service awards or receive any clubhouse praise for his friendly nature. Chapman is here to do one thing and one thing only: finish games. Cubs management was quick to note that they vetted Chapman heavily before making the trade, essentially trying to illustrate that yes, they know Chapman is a questionable addition to the Cubs clubhouse environment, and yes, they laid down the law with Chapman.

As a baseball move, there isn’t much more that Theo and Jed could have done to improve the bullpen for October. Although they haven’t yet worked out an extension with Chapman, I assure Cubs fans that we did not overpay for the services of Aroldis. Moreover, I would strongly recommend that anyone who is or was under that belief could think back to the last time Theo and Co. made a perilous baseball move that didn’t pan out or became a horrible misstep in their otherwise perfect rebuild. Relax. It’s Theo Epstein we’re talking about, not Jim Hendry.

Morally and ethically I find it hard to accept that Chapman is truly sorry for choking his girlfriend. Domestic abuse has never been, and should never be, taken lightly. His immediate denial of wrongdoing months ago tells me that he isn’t sincere in his remorse. As far as his character goes, I would prefer Carlos Zambrano over Aroldis Chapman. But alas, baseball is a business and unfortunately it is one that doesn’t always hold its stars accountable for their actions.

Nevertheless, Cubs fans, you should look forward to this man closing games in the 9th. But listen, feel free to feel appalled by Chapman off the field (I’ll gladly feel disgusted right alongside you) and impressed by his play on the field. Don’t blame Theo and Co. for acquiring a less-than desirable character; blame Chapman for making poor choices and Major League Baseball for neglecting to create meaningful punishment for domestic abusers.

But hey, it’s just a business.

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