(Editor’s Note: This is a two-part series having to do with the potential acquisition of Aroldis Chapman. While the deal is on hold for various reasons, how it might affect the team is still worth exploring given how close it seems the trade once was and the Dodgers’ reluctance to give it up completely. Click here for part two: Why the Dodgers should make the move.)
Dodgers fans have experienced a full cycle of emotions regarding Aroldis Chapman: initial excitement, frustration and finally, disappointment. Unfortunately, something tells me the same cycle might happen is a trade is actually consummated and Chapman becomes a Dodger.
On Monday morning, many Dodgers fans woke up excited to hear the news that the club has acquired All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds. Then, quicker than you could say “Hisahi Iwakuma,” everything changed. After some unfortunate news regarding possible domestic violence allegations, we wait for clarification on exactly what’s going to transpire with Chapman.
Until then, we have time to debate whether this move would be one that works in the Dodgers favor, or has the potential to backfire.
Although I’m not totally committed either way at this point, and will certainly await for all the details to come to light before deciding, I am leaning towards the latter. And that has nothing to do with the recent allegations. Let’s wait until we know everything regarding that. I’m talking simply from a baseball standpoint.
Let’s state the obvious first. Chapman is a dominant closer — perhaps the best in baseball. He’s the hardest thrower in the game, with a fastball that regularly reaches triple digits. In his six years as a pro, Chapman has compiled 146 Saves, a 2.17 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, and a 15.4 K/9 rate.
But the argument against acquiring Chapman has nothing to do with his talent or potential. It’s more to do with the fact that the Dodgers currently have one of the best closers in the game already in Kenley Jansen, who has been terrific for them. Over that same six year stretch given above for Chapman, Jansen’s stats are not only comparable, but darn near identical: 142 Saves, 2.28 ERA, 0.938 WHIP, 14.0 K/9.
Again, impressive stuff.
So, what’s the problem you ask? Well, we don’t know who the Dodgers might’ve given up yet, but it’s been reported that it’s not Urias, Seager, or De Leon, which is good news for Dodgers fans. Nonetheless, for a guy like Chapman, you’d have to bet the price was still steep. There are many good prospects in the Dodgers farm system, and if this trade does go through, a couple of them could very well be headed to Cincinnati. One could argue that if you’re going to part with these young assets, (whoever they end up being) other needs should take priority. Why add to a strength that you already have when you have other areas to address, like starting pitching?
For now, let’s just assume the trade value itself isn’t an issue. The trade could still present problems.
Having two of the game’s premium closers, who have the ability to turn a 9-inning game into a 7-inning game, seems like a bold idea. After all, we’ve all seen how one of the biggest attributes for the World Series Champion Royals was their dominate bullpen. And now, many teams seem to be trying to mimic that recipe for success, beefing up that back end of the bullpen. The Yankees have their Miller-Betances combo, and the Red Sox nove has a duo of Kimbrel-Uehara. And as impressive as those guys are, none would compare to the 1-2 punch of Chapman-Jansen.
Or, wait, would it be Jansen-Chapman? Ah, and therein lies the problem.
Both these guys are closers, and have been for a long time. Furthermore, both have excelled at that role. The Dodgers would be asking one of them to take a back seat to the other one by being the 8th inning set-up guy. That could create some interesting (to use a less abrasive adjective) dynamics in the Dodgers bullpen and clubhouse.
Of course, the idealist in me wants to say, “They’re professionals and they should be able to handle it if it’s what’s best for the team.” But the realist in me thinks it might be a little naïve to assume such feelings on their part.
It may not be that simple for these guys. The move might be seen as a demotion, especially for Jansen, who has been with the team and served as their closer for years. If the company I worked for had the opportunity to benefit, but it somehow came at the expense of my demotion, it’d be hard not to see it as such.
Additionally, both Jansen and Chapman are free agents at the end of next season. Forget their feelings. There are also some tangible factors here that could certainly cause some discontent. Getting top dollar offers from clubs next season after a successful year as a closer may be a lot easier than getting those same offers as a set-up reliever.
Sure, relievers are seeing raises across the board, but that’s a risk not many elite closers like Jansen and Chapman might be willing to take.
Certainly, there will be more to come on exactly how this situation plays out. Even if the Dodgers end up acquiring Chapman, moves may still be made before the start of the season. Perhaps they get him just to end up flipping him to another team for a good return. Or, maybe it’s Jansen who could possibly be on the move. One thing is certain. Keeping both of them could definitely solidify a bullpen that’s been suspect over the last couple of years, but it could also lead to some unhappy players. It’s the pros and cons of having a Chapman-Jansen combo.
Or, was it Jansen-Chapman?