If Reds fans have become agitated with the ongoing saga involving Brandon Phillips, both the organization and Aroldis Chapman himself, must be getting sick of the same rehashed material every off-season. The question of whether the man dubbed the “Cuban Missile” will be in the starting rotation has been peppered upon Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty the past few seasons, but now with Bryan Price as the front man, he takes the brunt of these decisions.
Understandably, Chapman is not one for playing along with the media on this topic. “I don’t want to – and it’s difficult that I’d do it,” said Chapman after a minor tangent he had through his translator. For someone from a different country who is still having a difficult time grasping an incredibly hard language, it is not hard to see why Chapman would like some consistency. He has grown into his closer’s role quicker than many expected and is already considered among the league’s elite.
Granted, the last two times the Reds entered camp, Chapman was a member of the starting rotation. Last spring, he was arguably the Reds best starter until Dusty Baker dropped the bombshell that the league’s most lethal arm was heading back to the bullpen. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Sean Marshall was never really a factor, and Jonathan Broxton struggled in the time that he was able to pitch.
Chapman now enters the final year of a 5-year/25 million dollar contract before he can choose to extend another year on his player option. Based on his dominance of National League opponents and the recent astronomical signings of lesser closers around the game, it is hard to see a reason as to why Chapman would not opt out and attempt to test the free agent market.
Similarly to how keeping Brandon Phillips happy and appeased is vital to the Reds success, the same can be said for Aroldis Chapman. A disgruntled weapon in the back of the bullpen can lead to angst and uneasiness for all, as there is nothing worse than losing a game late.
The debate over where Chapman belongs is an on-going struggle among members of Reds Country. I have heard and completely understood the Randy Johnson comparisons to the blazing fastball and virtually unhittable slider, but at the same time, the Big Unit was a hellacious competitor. That is not to say that Chapman is not, but their personalities are vastly different from one another. With Sean Marshall not being effective in the role in 2012 and the laundry list of injuries that debilitated the bullpen last season, having Chapman to pencil in at the backend has been a blessing in disguise.
Assuming full health going into next season, the Reds bullpen appears to be a juggernaut. Chapman’s role can certainly be extended beyond just the 9th inning with familiar faces such as Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, J.J. Hoover and Sam LeCure, all returning with more than enough experience to be able to handle closer duties should Chapman get stretched out on any given day. The question will inevitable reign on as long number 54 is suiting up for the Reds and we continue to be captivated by the league’s fastest left arm.