Aroldis Chapman's new old role
He's back at closer, but does that change his overall value?
Day 7 of the BBTN 500 consists of players ranked 26-50. Aroldis Chapman comes in at No. 46, but this voting was done when everyone thought he was headed to the rotation. Our panelists are here to discuss how his return to the bullpen as the closer changes that assessment.
1. Should we adjust Chapman's ranking based on his return to the bullpen?
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Fantasy: In theory, yes, because it's difficult to objectively place any relief pitcher -- even a top one -- in the top 50 overall in terms of value. The fact is that a 70-some-inning pitcher just can't compete with a 200-inning starter in terms of impact. The Reds made the wrong decision, though it's not likely to hurt them much as they chase another pennant.
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Info: Yes, but not too far down. I'd still plug him in between 50 and 75. I know that a lot of people don't think relievers should be ultra-highly valued, but Chapman is a legitimate exception to the rule because he's unique (lefty relievers worth 3.5-plus WAR are unusual -- the last before Chapman was B.J. Ryan in 2006). And I think that we may see a few instances this year when manager Dusty Baker uses Chapman as his own setup man, and he gets a few more four- and five-out saves.
Justin Havens (@jayhaykid), ESPN Stats & Info: Yes, I would say definitively that Aroldis Chapman -- closer -- should not be ranked ahead of Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Reyes. While I do expect him to be among the best closers in baseball this season, the simple fact that he is a relief pitcher limits the ceiling of his value. From a personnel management standpoint, I think you can make the argument that the Reds' decision isn't as terrible as one might assume, given that Chapman himself isn't behind the idea of starting. But it probably also eliminates Chapman from ever entering the top 50 in this discussion again.
2. Will he ever start a game in the majors?
Karabell: Nope, Chapman is a reliever now and it's unlikely to change, which is a shame because the Reds should at least have attempted to see what would have happened. Perhaps it wouldn't have worked out due to performance or injury, but we'll never know. Doesn't mean he can't have a terrific career piling up the most misunderstood of stats (saves), though.
Simon: No. I think his career is as a high-value reliever for as long as he can throw upwards of 97 mph. Eventually, the arm may give out, as it does for many flamethrowers (see Rodriguez, Francisco), but he'll still be someone you'll look back on 10 years from now and remember how wowed you were.
Havens: It would be easy to say "no," given that he seems squarely on the closer trajectory moving forward, and he himself prefers that. But a lot can happen in five or 10 years, and Chapman is just 25 years old. The real issue is that relegating him to the bullpen will allow him to get by with just two pitches, further hindering his ability to transition to a starter's role. I think he'll be in a Reds uniform longer than Dusty Baker, so I'll say yes at some point.
3. Will the Reds regret putting him back in the 'pen?
Karabell: They will if they lose a crucial playoff game started by Bronson Arroyo or Mike Leake. I don't think Dusty Baker will ever regret it, because he clearly thinks this is the right move. The front office knows the Reds would have a better team with Chapman throwing even 150 innings, especially with a solid bullpen already in place. But ultimately the Reds are hardly the only team that thinks provincially.
Simon: No. I actually think the regret will come in the form of the contract given to Jonathan Broxton, who now is a highly paid setup man. Chapman will be great in his role and the Reds will reap the benefits for the next several years, including a division title (and a very good chance at an LCS appearance) in 2013.
Havens: I'll answer this in a slightly different way: I think the Reds are going to regret bringing back Dusty Baker. Baker was, by all accounts, the driving force behind the Chapman-in-the-bullpen idea, with the front office supporting a shift to the rotation. If they had parted ways -- as was possible this offseason -- that could have ensured the new manager was on board with the transition. Instead, it appears they've allowed a manager on a short-term contract to dictate the long-term trajectory of their highest-upside arm.
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