(Editor’s note: I don’t know what’s going to happen to Aroldis Chapman when it comes to the domestic violence allegations from early December that caused his trade to the Dodgers to fall through. But for the sake of this column, I’m going to write as if he’s going to play the entire 2015 season.)
The Yankees need two general managers. One that does the trades (Brian Cashman) and one that does the free-agent signings the way a football team might have two kickers, one specifically for kickoffs and one for field goals. There’s no doubt that Cashman is the master of trades in Major League Baseball and he once again proved it on Monday by acquiring Aroldis Chapman from the Reds.
So far this offseason, Cashman has made five trades:
Nov. 11: Traded 2B Jose Pirela to Padres for RHP Ronald Herrera.
Nov. 11: Traded C John Ryan Murphy to Twins for CF Aaron Hicks.
Dec. 8: Traded RHP Adam Warren and 2B Brendan Ryan to Cubs for 2B Starlin Castro.
Dec. 9: Traded LHP Justin Wilson to Tigers for RHP Chad Green and RHP Luis Cessa.
Dec. 27: Traded RHP Caleb Cotham, RHP Rookie Davis, 3B Eric Jagielo and 2B Tony Renda to Reds for LHP Aroldis Chapman.
To put it as one big trade …
The Yankees traded:
2B Jose Pirela
C John Ryan Murphy
RHP Adam Warren
2B Brendan Ryan
LHP Justin Wilson
RHP Caleb Cotham
RHP Rookie Davis
3B Eric Jagielo
2B Tony Renda
RHP Ronald Herrera
CF Aaron Hicks
2B Starlin Castro
RHP Chad Green
RHP Luis Cessa
LHP Aroldis Chapman
Essentially, the Yankees traded a player they felt had no real position (Pirela), a backup catcher they could afford to lose because of depth (Murphy), a pitcher they have no set role for (Warren), a utility infielder who can’t hit (Ryan), a left-handed middle reliever who’s good but not great (Wilson) and four minor leaguers for the 14th overall pick in 2008 (Hicks), a 25-year middle infielder with 991 hits whose under team control for five more years (Castro), arguably the best closer in all of baseball (Chapman) and two minor leaguers. (Side note: With Cotham traded and Andrew Bailey now with the Phillies, Joe Girardi is running out of terrible right-handed options to face the heart of the Blue Jays’ order though I guess he can always turn to Branden Pinder.)
Last offseason, I wanted the Yankees to sign Andrew Miller and also re-sign David Robertson. I thought the Yankees needed to have both to go along with Dellin Betances to make up for the instability of their rotation. They didn’t and were fortunate that Justin Wilson was good and that Chasen Shreve was good for most of the season, especially when Miller went down for an extended period of time. The Yankees tried to redo their decision to only sign Miller when they made a push for Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline and were willing to give up actual players and real prospects for Kimbrel rather than just giving up money for Robertson in the winter, which is the opposite of how they have normally done business.
I haven’t understood this offseason why Brian Cashman has been willing to trade Andrew Miller if the price is right. The Yankees’ only true strength is the back end of their bullpen, so to trade Miller before and even after the Chapman trade made and makes no sense. Sure, the Yankees could afford to trade one of their three bullpen stars, but with a potential suspension surrounding Chapman as well as the idea that someone who consistently throws 100-plus mph could have arm trouble at any second, the bullpen should be treated like the rotation in that you can never have enough arms.
Right now, the Yankees’ rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova. With Tanaka’s elbow still (and I’m guessing always will be) a concern, Severino looking to pitch his first full season in the majors, Pineda having never made more than 28 starts in a season, Sabathia coming off another knee injury and his rehab stint for alcohol, Eovaldi having his season cut short due to elbow inflammation and Nova coming off Tommy John surgery and pitching to a 5.65 ERA over his last 21 starts, the rotation isn’t exactly something to believe in.
With Betances and Miller, the Yankees were able to turn games into seven-inning games. With Chapman added to the mix, their games will now be six-inning games, and you could make the case that if each of them gets four outs, you have a five-inning game with the three pitchers with the highest strikeout percentage in the majors over the last two seasons. The only problem with this unbeatable formula is I don’t know how the Yankees are going to get a lead for the trio to protect. That’s a problem for the master of trades to solve.