*In an update to this piece, the trade between the Dodgers and Reds is not yet complete as of this writing due to an alleged domestic incident involving Aroldis Chapman that has come to light on Monday evening*
By Isaac Marks
The Los Angeles Dodgers made a flurry of moves over the weekend, signing Hisashi Iwakuma to a three-year deal, bringing back veteran Chase Utley on a one-year contract and have now bolstered their bullpen. Per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Dodgers have acquired All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds for two prospects.
Can Chapman and current closer Kenley Jansen co-exist?
That’s the multi-million dollar question. Can two top-tier closers occupy the same bullpen? The baseball world already saw a disaster arise after the Washington Nationals traded for Jonathan Papelbon and demoted Drew Storen, who was having a career year. Storen consequently imploded and Papelbon’s lasting image in a Nationals uniform is the choking of MVP Bryce Harper.
The Dodgers now have two of the top three relief pitchers in baseball, but sadly things aren’t that simple. Both Chapman and Jansen are in their final year of arbitration and are looking at a big payday in free agency next year. Both guys have publicly said they want to close. Saves, as terrible a stat as they are, still have swaying power in contract negotiations. It’s hard to imagine that two guys as talented as Chapman and Jansen are willing to get pay cuts because one was a set-up man for a year, but the chance is still there and that might create some rifts in the Dodger clubhouse. Welcome to managing, Dave Roberts!
Dodgers games will be much shorter
If the Dodgers can figure out a way to make Chapman and Jansen buy in, they instantly become the best 1-2 bullpen guys in baseball.
All-time leaders in strikeouts per 9 IP, career: 1. Aroldis Chapman 15.4, 2. Craig Kimbrel, 14.6 Kenley Jansen 14.0 >>Min. 100 IP
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 7, 2015
To simplify, 57 percent of Chapman’s outs are by strikeout. Jansen is just behind him at 51 percent. As a hitter, you have a less than 50 percent chance of putting the ball in play against these two. The chances of a late-inning comeback against the Dodgers just got that much harder. The back end of the bullpen was a question mark with guys like Yimi Garcia and Chris Thatcher in roles that were a bit over their heads. Now they’re in a more fitting, 6th/7th inning role and the bullpen is that much more dangerous.
The Reds have made everyone available
The Reds might be a year too late, but the rebuild has started in Cincinnati. After the midseason trades of Johnny Cueto to the Royals and Mike Leake to the Giants, the Reds had five rookies in the rotation. In September, the Reds demolished the record of 41 consecutive starts by rookies after finishing out the 71 games they had remaining with an all-Rookie rotation. The Reds have a few more valuable pieces remaining in Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier with Frazier valued highest because of his stellar season and his three years of team control remaining.
In the return for Chapman, the Reds are getting two prospects; not a major haul for an elite player. It’s the walk-year; this is potentially a short term rental. In today’s game a short term rental doesn’t bring back what it used to. It’s just a year too late; the Reds had a very slim chance at contending in 2015 and that was before the Cubs surprised the baseball world. In that one year, Chapman’s value drastically decreased and has left the Reds a relatively meager return.