Joel Sherman of the New York Post walks readers through the winding process the Cubs took to reach an agreement on an Aroldis Chapman trade with the Yankees. Per Sherman, the Cubs never wanted to pursue a rental pitcher but weren’t able to convince the Yankees to back down from their demand of Kyle Schwarber. Chicago then turned to the Royals, only to find the asking price on Wade Davis to be even higher than the asking price on Miller. The Cubs weren’t willing to deal from their big league roster to upgrade the ’pen but were willing to deal from their infield depth, parting with Class-A shortstop Gleyber Torres largely because of the presence of both Addison Russell and Javier Baez on the Major League roster. (Notably, Chicago also dealt from its first base depth in moving Dan Vogelbach for another left-handed reliever: Seattle’s Mike Montgomery.) Sherman adds that owner Hal Steinbrenner still wants to win in 2016 despite approving the Chapman swap, which calls into question whether the club would entertain even an overwhelming offer for Miller.
The Cubs have designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for the newly acquired Aroldis Chapman, per ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers (Twitter link). The organization’s hope, according to Rogers, is that Richards will clear waivers and remain in the organization to be further stretched out at the Triple-A level.
Richard, 32, enjoyed a solid comeback season with the 2015 Cubs, working to a 3.83 ERA with 4.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 59.3 percent ground-ball rate in 47 2/3 innings out of the bullpen after inking a minor league contract. He was especially tough on opposing lefties, limiting same-handed batters to a .234/.269/.266 slash in 67 plate appearances. However, he’s struggled in 14 innings since re-signing with the Cubs, surrendering 10 earned runs (6.43 ERA) on 23 hits and seven walks with seven strikeouts in that time. The additions of Chapman and Mike Montgomery, in conjunction with the presence of Travis Wood on the roster, have made Richards an expendable fourth lefty in the ’pen for the time being.
Richard is earning $2MM this season and has about $951K of that sum remaining through year’s end, so there’s a good chance that he will indeed clear waivers. Of course, he also has enough service time to refuse an outright assignment and test the open market without forfeiting the remainder of that salary, so it’s not a given that he’ll elect to stay in the Cubs organization.
2:37pm: The Cubs and Yankees have each formally announced the trade. Warren will join the Yankees’ Major League roster, while McKinney will head to Double-A Trenton. Torres and Crawford are each bound for Class-A Tampa.
11:03am: After months of being linked to a hard-throwing left-hander for their bullpen, the Cubs have reportedly acquired the hardest-throwing pitcher in all of Major League Baseball, reaching an agreement with the Yankees that will send Aroldis Chapman from New York to Chicago in exchange for shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, right-hander Adam Warren and minor league outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.
The Cubs have been linked to Chapman and fellow lefty Andrew Miller for months, but the Yankees seemingly never wavered from their asking price of Kyle Schwarber in exchange for Miller, and the Cubs never budged on their refusal to discuss the injured slugger. Instead, the Cubs will pick up Chapman — long one of the best closers in all of baseball but also a free agent at season’s end, making the four-player package headlined by Torres a steep price to pay. However, the Cubs have more wins than any team in Major League Baseball and are making a clear effort to deepen their roster not just to get to the postseason but to thrive upon arriving there. The structure of the postseason schedule allows clubs to more heavily rely on their bullpen arms due to the frequency of off-days in the schedule, making Chapman that much more valuable in a five- or seven-game series.
The 2016 season has seen Chapman continue his on-field excellence, posting a pristine 2.01 ERA with 12.6 K/9, a career-best 2.3 BB/9 and a 37.3 percent ground-ball rate. Chapman’s fastball has averaged a staggering 100.1 mph this season, which is a strong driving factor behind an 18.2 percent swinging-strike rate that is the fourth-highest in MLB. Since taking over as the Cincinnati closer back in 2012, Chapman has compiled a 1.91 ERA with 165 saves and a ridiculous 500-to-117 K/BB ratio in 287 innings of relief work. He’s earning $11.325MM this year and has about $4.33MM remaining on his salary through season’s end.
Chapman becomes the second hard-throwing lefty to join the Cubs’ bullpen in the past week, as Chicago also picked up lefty Mike Montgomery from the Mariners in a trade that sent slugging (and blocked) minor league first baseman Dan Vogelbach to Seattle. Chapman figures to supplant Hector Rondon as the Chicago closer, pushing Pedro Strop to the seventh inning. Montgomery and right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. will mix in as well, as will right-hander Justin Grimm and veteran right-hander Joe Nathan, who was just brought to the Majors over the weekend after completing rehab from Tommy John surgery. Travis Wood has pitched to a 2.88 ERA this season and is second among Chicago relievers in terms of innings pitched, so he’s likely to become the third lefty in manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen. As such, the acquisition of Chapman could push left-hander Clayton Richard, who has a 6.43 ERA in 14 innings this year, out of the picture.
Chapman’s time with the Yankees will ultimately prove to be brief in nature, as he spent just a few months in the organization and only a bit more than two months on the active roster due to a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. Chapman was investigated by the league this offseason following allegations of assaulting his girlfriend at a party and later discharging a handgun in his garage, though he was never arrested nor were any charges filed. While the moral and ethical implications of acquiring a player associated with that investigation can be debated to no end, from a pure baseball perspective, the investigation drastically lowered the price for the Yankees to acquire Chapman this winter. They’ll now swap out Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, Caleb Cotham and Tony Renda for a significantly more talented package of talent, headlined by Torres and McKinney.
Warren will return to the Bronx with two and a half years of service time, and he’ll be a familiar face for the Yankees, who just this offseason traded him to the Cubs in order to acquire Starlin Castro. However, Chicago proved to be a struggle for Warren, who pitched to a 5.91 ERA in 35 innings with the Cubs. Considering the strong work that Warren did from 2013-15 with the Yankees — 3.23 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 45.3 percent ground-ball rate — the extent of his struggles was fairly surprising. The primary culprits for Warren were a dramatic spike in his walk rate (4.9 BB/9) and a massive increase in homers. A fluky 16.7 percent homer-to-flyball ratio undoubtedly impacted his 1.8 HR/9 rate, but Warren’s general problems with locating his pitches actually led to a greater percentage of pitches in the strike zone, particularly when behind in the count.
Torres, 19, is the most highly regarded prospect joining the Yankees’ ranks. One of the prizes of the Cubs’ pool-shattering international spending spree three summers ago, the shortstop entered the season as a consensus Top 50 prospect around the league and has only continued to boost his stock. Torres is hitting .275/.359/.433 with nine homers and 19 stolen bases in 409 plate appearances while playing against considerably older competition. ESPN’s Keith Law rated Torres 26th on his midseason list of the game’s top prospects, and Baseball America pegged him 27th. Law noted that Torres has put on weight and filled out a bit, making it less certain that he’ll stick at shortstop but adding to the power output he’s delivered in a pitcher-friendly home park as one of three teenagers receiving regular at-bats in the Carolina League this year. BA notes that he’s recovered from a dreadfully low start — indeed, he’s hitting .302/.379/.468 since May 1 — and has shown enough added pop to profile at second or third base even if he has to move off of shortstop.
The 21-year-old McKinney was a Top 100 prospect entering the season but has seen his stock dip a bit, part of which BA attributes to adding “some bad weight” and slowing down both in terms of foot speed and bat speed. In 349 plate appearances at the Double-A level this season, McKinney is hitting .252/.355/.322 with just one home run. However, he’s quite young for the level and is just a year removed from hitting .300/.371/.454 as a 20-year-old between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, so there’s certainly room for a rebound. And, as evidenced by McKinney’s 47 walks (13.5 percent) against 68 strikeouts (19.4 percent), he still possesses strong discipline at the plate that should play into his favor as he continues to develop. The Yankees will be the third organization for McKinney, who was selected 24th overall by the A’s in 2013 but traded to the Cubs alongside Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel blockbuster back in 2014.
As for Crawford, the 22-year-old was an 11th-round pick out of high school by the Cubs back in 2012 and is in his first season at Class-A Advanced. He’s hitting .255/.327/.386 with three homers and 22 steals in 28 tries through his first 370 trips to the plate. Crawford didn’t land on any top 30 lists for the Cubs, but BA’s J.J. Cooper tweets that as a toolsy center fielder with plus speed and plus defense, Crawford is the “perfect” fourth player/lottery ticket to add some further upside to the deal for the Yankees.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was the first to report that the two were talking about a trade involving Chapman and Torres and also the first to say a deal was in place (via Twitter). Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported Warren’s inclusion (links to Twitter). Sahadev Sharma of TheAthletic.com first reported that McKinney was in the deal (also via Twitter). Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago reported that Crawford was the fourth player (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
8:48am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (links to Twitter) that the Cubs would send four players to the Yankees in the deal. In addition to Torres, former Yankees right-hander Adam Warren would likely return to New York. Jeimer Candelario, according to Sherman, is not in the deal. The trade has the approval of Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, Sherman notes. Rosenthal tweets that the trade is in its final stages, and the players have been agreed upon.
JULY 25, 8:32am: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that if the deal is completed, there will be “much more” than just Torres and another prospect in the deal. Jorge Soler will not be included in this trade, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com (on Twitter).
JULY 24, 8:06pm: There hasn’t been any talk of a contract extension between Chapman and the Cubs, Heyman reports (Twitter link). The trade is “looking likelier” but still not finalized, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. Torres is one of “multiple” Cubs pieces that have been agreed upon as part of the deal.
7:04pm: The Yankees and Cubs are working towards a trade that would send star closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago in exchange for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and more, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports via Twitter. Sports Illustrated’s Kenny Ducey reported (Twitter link) earlier tonight that Torres was scratched from the lineup for Chicago’s High-A affiliate, and SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo adds that Torres was indeed removed due to ongoing trade talks.
The Chapman sweepstakes were seemingly coming to a peak earlier today when the Yankees reportedly asked the Cubs, Nationals, Indians and a mystery fourth team to submit their best final bids for Chapman’s services, with the Rangers and Dodgers also seemingly on the periphery of the market. Cleveland appeared to be in the lead since the Bombers apparently weren’t impressed by a Nats trade package headlined by pitching prospect Erick Fedde (as Joe Ross was seemingly the main piece the Yankees were seeking from Washington).
Adding Torres to their offer, however, could well be what has apparently put the Cubs into the driver’s seat. The 19-year-old shortstop was hailed as one of the top minor leaguers in baseball as per preseason top-100 rankings (ESPN’s Keith Law had Torres 15th, MLB.com had him 28th, and both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America had him 41st). Baseball America had Torres ranked as the top prospect in the Cubs’ system, no small feat given Chicago’s impressive amount of minor league depth.
Signed for a $1.7MM bonus as part of the Cubs’ international signing splurge in 2013, Torres has a .275/.359/.433 slash line and nine homers in 409 plate appearances at the high-A level this season. MLB.com’s scouting report gives him plus grades in everything but power-hitting, and some scouts believe even that will eventually manifest itself in the form of 15-homer power. While he could stick at shortstop, Torres could also move to third base or second, which may be his Yankee path as a long-term replacement for Chase Headley or Starlin Castro since Didi Gregorius has blossomed as New York’s regular shortstop.
With Chapman set for free agency this winter, Torres alone would’ve been quite a return for the Yankees. Torres and even more young talent is quite a heavy price for Chicago to pay, though the Cubs are one of the few teams with enough position player depth at both the major and minor league levels to afford surrendering a top prospect like Torres for a rental player.
Of course, given how the bullpen is arguably the only semi-weak spot on the Cubs’ roster, adding a dominant force like Chapman may be the last piece Chicago needs to finally win another World Series. Chapman has a 2.01 ERA, 12.6 K/9 and 5.5 K/BB rate over 31 1/3 innings this season, not seeing the field until May due to a 30-game suspension under the league domestic violence policy.
Hector Rondon has hardly done anything to earn a demotion given his own spectacular numbers, though the Cubs closer would move to a setup role if and when Chapman joins the fold, with Pedro Strop, Travis Wood and the newly-acquired Mike Montgomery serving to protect leads into the eighth inning.
SUNDAY, 6:32pm: Shortstop Gleyber Torres, one of the Cubs’ top prospects, has been scratched from the lineup for Chicago’s High-A affiliate tonight, according to Sports Illustrated’s Kenny Ducey (Twitter link). Torres was known to be of interest to the Yankees, and Heyman tweets that the Cubs have an offer of Torres and more on the table for Chapman. Torres was a consensus top-50 prospect (#28 from MLB.com, #41 from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus) in preseason minor league rankings, and the 19-year-old is hitting .275/.359/.433 in 409 plate appearances this season.
3:52pm: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner still hasn’t given general manager Brian Cashman the green light to sell off top veterans, including Chapman, according to Heyman. As of now, the Indians, Cubs, Nationals, Rangers and a mystery team are pushing for Chapman. (Twitter link).
12:57pm: The Indians have the best names on the table for Chapman right now and a trade could be close, a source told Bruce Levine of 670TheScore (Twitter link). The Nationals are also aggressively going after Chapman, notes Levine, and Keith Law of ESPN hears (on Twitter) that Erick Fedde, Koda Glover and another prospect will head to the Yankees if the two sides strike a deal. Fedde, a right-hander, is Baseball America’s 61st-ranked prospect.
11:03am: The Yankees are dissatisfied with the Nationals’ offers, who are behind at least three other teams (including a mystery club) in the Chapman derby, writes Heyman. Further, the remaining $5MM on Chapman’s contract could make it difficult for a team like the Indians to acquire him, as the Yankees are currently unwilling to eat any of that money.
Meanwhile, the Giants sense that the momentum is elsewhere in regards to Chapman, tweets Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. The Yankees are giving the Giants “radio silence” and don’t like San Francisco’s farm system as much as other suitors’, adds Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
8:46am: Chapman is the Nationals’ No. 1 target, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, who adds that the Yankees are interested in Nats right-handed starter Joe Ross. The Giants are also in the Chapman sweepstakes, but neither they nor the Indians are progressing toward a deal with the Yankees. The Cubs are higher on Miller than Chapman, though it doesn’t appear the former is going anywhere.
Although Ross has been out for several weeks with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, it’s fair to say he’d be a significant pickup for the Yankees in a Chapman trade. The 23-year-old has thrown 172 innings and put up a 3.56 ERA, 7.74 K/9, 2.46 BB/9 and 46.6 percent ground-ball rate since debuting in the majors last season. Unsurprisingly, there’s “no chance” of Washington moving Ross for a rental, a source told Heyman (Twitter link).
8:38am: The Yankees have asked the Nationals, Cubs, Indians and a mystery team to submit their best and final offers for Chapman, an industry source told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
SATURDAY, 10:18pm: A Chapman trade isn’t necessarily imminent, but the Yankees are ready to conclude the process, tweets Rosenthal.
9:32pm: The Yankees are telling teams that they’re nearing a trade involving closer Aroldis Chapman, but they plan on keeping fellow left-handed relief ace Andrew Miller, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). There’s no word yet on where the Yankees will send Chapman in advance of the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
As of earlier Saturday, the Nationals were pursuing Chapman – to whom they’ve been connected for months – but they haven’t shown an eagerness to part with top prospects for the 28-year-old free agent-to-be. Fellow contenders like the Cubs, Indians and Giants, among others, have also been linked to Chapman, whom the Yankees acquired from the Reds for an underwhelming prospect package during the offseason amid his domestic violence issues.
The flame-throwing Chapman served a month-plus suspension to begin the season because of his off-field misdeeds, but he has been his usual dominant self on the mound since. Over 31 1/3 innings this year, Chapman has pitched to a 2.01 ERA while notching 12.64 strikeouts and walking 2.3 batters per nine innings, and converting 20 of 21 save chances. Chapman’s strikeout rate represents a career low, though his walks are at a personal best and he hasn’t shown any signs of losing velocity, having exceeded 105 mph on Monday. The exact speed (105.1) is the fastest pitch ever on radar, tying Chapman’s record from 2010.
For the Yankees, dealing Chapman would be an admission that they’re not all in on contending this year. The Bombers dropped a 12-inning decision to the Giants on Saturday and fell to 49-48, which puts them 7.5 games behind the AL East-leading Orioles and 4.5 out of a Wild Card spot. On the other hand, judging by their decision to keep the 31-year-old Miller – who has outperformed Chapman this season – they haven’t abandoned all near-term hope. Miller is locked up through 2018 at $9MM per annum and would surely merit a significant return (even greater than what Chapman will bring back), but the Yanks look prepared to hold him and hope he’s part of playoff teams in the Bronx over the next couple years.
Even if the Yankees part with Chapman, he, like Miller, could conceivably be part of their plans beyond this season. Chapman would have to hit free agency and New York would have to be motivated to re-sign him, of course. He seems likely to exceed his 2016 salary ($11.325MM) on a long-term deal in the offseason, and it stands to reason that the Yankees could be the club to give him that contract on the open market. For now, it appears Chapman will head to a team in better position to compete for a World Series this season.
The Cubs have made a couple of notable changes to their bullpen, activating right-hander Joe Nathan from the disabled list and optioning fellow righty Adam Warren to Triple-A Iowa, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com was among those to report (Twitter link).
[RELATED: Updated Cubs Depth Chart]
Chicago signed Nathan, a 15-year major league veteran with 377 career saves, in May and placed him on the DL as he continued recovering from 2015 Tommy John surgery. Nathan then racked up 9 1/3 innings with the Cubs’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates prior to his activation. His last extensive action came in 2014 as a member of the Tigers, with whom he threw 58 innings and recorded a 4.81 ERA, 8.38 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and 35 saves in 42 chances. Nathan was far more effective in previous seasons with the Giants, Twins and Rangers, which explains his stellar career numbers (2.89 ERA, 9.49 K/9 and 3.34 BB/9).
With closer Hector Rondon and primary setup man Pedro Strop in the fold, the Cubs won’t need the 41-year-old Nathan to be a late-game savior. But he will provide another option along with the newly acquired Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards Jr., Travis Wood, Justin Grimm and Clayton Richard. The first-place Cubs – whose bullpen is middle of the pack in ERA (3.87, 15th) and K-BB perentage (14.3, 13th) – could further bolster their relief corps around the trade deadline, as they’re reportedly in the hunt for Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman.
As for Warren, whom the Cubs acquired from the Yankees for infielder Starlin Castro in the offseason, he certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations in Chicago. Before the Cubs demoted Warren, he pitched to a 5.91 ERA over 35 innings and walked nearly five batters per nine frames. From 2013-15 with the Yankees, he amassed terrific numbers (3.23 ERA, 7.65 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 45.3 percent ground-ball rate) over a 287-inning sample size as both a starter and a reliever.
- Some of the same teams pursuing Bruce are in on Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi notes on Twitter. That’s not surprising — both are left-handed-hitting corner outfielders, albeit rather different ones — and it’s certainly possible to imagine the interplay between their respective markets having an impact on how trade talks progress. The Cubs, Dodgers, and Indians all have some level of interest in both players, per the report.
- The Cubs are still seeking a top-tier left-handed reliever even after landing Mike Montgomery, but they’re also eyeing Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick, as previously reported by Jon Morosi. Rosenthal writes that some teams may eventually concede that the pitching help they covet isn’t going to be available at a price they like and could simply upgrade the offense, thinking that adding value is adding value regardless of position. Reddick, he notes, would be an upgrade for the Cubs over Chris Coghlan, and deepening a roster in any fashion bodes well for the playoffs.
- The Cubs remain on the periphery of the starting pitching market but are suggesting to other organizations that they don’t expect to land a starter. Certainly, it seems, Chicago won’t burn up too much prospect capital just for a back-end hurler. That’s not surprise, as the Cubs have a perfectly sturdy starting five as well as some depth options.
- That’s not to say that the Cubs aren’t still poking around, with Heyman noting that the team spoke to the Mariners about James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Other organizations have as well, including the Rangers. A Seattle source tells Heyman that a trade of either young starter remains unlikely, though the team isn’t taking anything off the table at this point. From where I sit, it’s tough to imagine either player changing hands; Seattle will surely want to see whether Paxton can harness his improving stuff, while Walker isn’t at full health.
The Cubs are showing some interest in Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein drafted Reddick while serving as GM of the Red Sox, and the two sides were loosely linked by Morosi earlier this season. Of course, outfield isn’t necessarily a primary need for the Cubs, who have been more tied to bullpen help of late. However, the Cubs did cross one item off their wishlist with yesterday’s pickup of Mike Montgomery, and the Chicago front office/field staff clearly place a high value on harboring a deep roster that is tailored to allowing manager Joe Maddon to play matchups. Chicago is currently deploying Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras in the outfield with regularity, although Dexter Fowler will soon return, which could push Contreras back behind the plate and Bryant back to the hot corner more frequently. Reddick has long handled righties better than lefties and would provide a solid defensive option in the outfield. It’s a similar skill-set to that of Jason Heyward, though Reddick’s been the more productive of the two this season, slashing .301/.380/.445 in a season that’s been shortened by a fractured thumb. Reddick initially slumped upon activation from the DL, but he’s hit well more recently.