Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati Reds are expected to announce today that Aroldis Chapman will return to the bullpen, where he will pitch one inning at a time, often protecting three-run leads that are held 99 percent of the time no matter who is pitching.
The funny thing about all this: The Reds -- the small-market Reds -- will now be paying Jonathan Broxton, probably their fourth-best reliever, $21 million over the next three years to pitch in potentially higher leverage situations than those Chapman will appear in. (To be fair to Broxton, he has a 3.52 ERA over the past three seasons, but R.J. Anderson tweeted to me that he added a cutter after joining the Reds late last season and that was his most effective strikeout pitch.)
I've written about why the initial decision to move Chapman in the rotation was the correct one, so won't rehash all that again. Obviously, this points to a larger communication issue between general manager Walt Jocketty, manager Dusty Baker (who wants Chapman to close), pitching coach Bryan Price (who has publicly been in favor of starting Chapman) and Chapman himself, who apparently wants to close. How was the decision discussed? Were Baker and Chapman consulted before the Reds signed Broxton? Certainly, the small-market Reds could have spent the Broxton money in another direction, especially considering they already have a deep bullpen with Sean Marshall, J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Jose Arredondo, Alfredo Simon and others.
Frankly, however, if Chapman's heart isn't in starting, it doesn't say a lot about his intestinal fortitude and moving him back to the pen is probably the right move. Starting pitching is harder and more challenging, a challenge Chapman may not be 100 percent invested in. Starters make a lot more money because it's a more valuable role and great ones are harder to come by. As much Baker thinks Chapman is an indispensable weapon in the bullpen, it's simply not true. No reliever is going to get a $100 million contract like Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke received this offseason.
Anyway, if the report is true, it doesn't really make the Reds a better club, and could make them worse, especially if Mike Leake is mediocre again and Bronson Arroyo fails to match his excellent 2012. And, sadly, we'll be missing the chance to see if Chapman had a chance to develop into Randy Johnson 2.0.