This post is narrow. It’s just a few early musings about today’s trade. It doesn’t address the Reds off-season taken all together. That can wait for a little while. Over the next couple days, we’ll run detailed scouting reports of the players the Reds got in return for Chapman.
I also can’t promise this stream of consciousness forms a coherent point.
1. The timing of this trade was surprising. Chapman is being investigated by Major League Baseball for his involvement in a domestic incident in late October. The outcome of that proceeding is highly uncertain because this is a brand new process for MLB. They could treat Chapman harshly to send a message. They could let him off without much punishment since no charges were pressed. (We’ve also heard – from Jim Bowden, fwiw – that Chapman’s girlfriend isn’t going to talk to MLB which works strongly in Chapman’s favor). We don’t even know what “harsh” and “lenient” mean in this context, since it’s all new. And MLB has to be concerned with losing an early case over their new authority on appeal (see Goodell, R; and Brady, T). To add to the uncertainty, we don’t know when MLB will rule on Chapman.
If Chapman is largely exonerated – say MLB’s punishment is aimed at his gun misuse, not the alleged domestic violence – his market value should go up considerably. He wouldn’t be wearing a new domestic violence label, at least that’s what a team could say. If Chapman is punished by MLB for domestic violence, he becomes all the more toxic to any potential trade partner. Maybe the Reds weren’t willing to take that chance and grabbed a deal now. What a mess.
2. The low return isn’t all the Reds fault (sorta). It isn’t the Reds fault that Chapman’s value was hurt by his domestic incident, causing the Dodgers’ deal to collapse. It is their fault that there is only one year left on his contract. They could have moved him last summer at the trade deadline. We have no way to know if the offers were better in July than in December. Given the interest from several teams in July, I’d guess yes (since 1.5 > 1). In terms of pennant races and post-seasons, you’re talking 2 > 1. The longer you wait, the more that can go wrong. It did. And, of course, the organization’s serial mistake to keep him in the bullpen hurts his value (200 > 60).
3. It’s worse than it looks stacking up the players. While a couple of the players the Reds got in return for Chapman look promising, keep in mind that the Yankees have a good chance of earning a compensation pick for Chapman at the end of 2016 when he becomes a free agent. That makes the Reds return look worse. They weren’t just trading the best closer in baseball, they were trading a pretty good draft pick, too.
4. It wasn’t a salary dump. The Chapman trade can be looked at several ways, but it wasn’t a salary dump. Unlike last year, the Reds aren’t under any payroll pressure. They cleared salary with the Frazier trade and their previous commitments added up to less than they were spending last year. There is ZERO chance the Reds will be able to spend as much money on payroll in 2016 as they did in 2014 and 2015. If the Reds were motivated to take less for Chapman out of eagerness to save the money, none of us should show up next year. But I don’t think that’s what happened.
5. He’s finally gone. I wrote a few weeks ago that I’d feel relieved when they traded Chapman. Pretty sure by tomorrow morning, that will be the case.
That’s it for now. More in upcoming days.