Bryan Price needs to unleash Aroldis Chapman


Yesterday afternoon, Ashley Davis touched on the Cincinnati Reds bullpen and what it’s more than likely going to look like heading into the 2015 season. You can view that piece here.

While I believe we’re in agreement on the names and faces that will be penciled in for the backend of ballgames, it’s time for all of this “role positioning” to end, and the Reds are the perfect team to try it.

There has never been another closer as physically dominant as Aroldis Chapman. That’s not to say he’s always put up the best numbers (he hasn’t) or that he’s unhittable (he isn’t), but having a 102+ MPH fastball in your arsenal to unleash at any time classifies domination.

Last season, we as Reds fans experienced regression to the mean when it came in terms of our team’s bullpen. After years of it being a strong suit, that all came crashing back to the middle after nightmarish years from virtually everyone that wasn’t Aroldis Chapman or Jonathan Broxton.

Come 2015, it’s time that Bryan Price unleashes the Cuban Missile.

Ever since his arrival with the Reds back in 2010, it has been hotly debated where Chapman belongs with the organization. Some clamor for the most dominant arm to ever play in the Queen City to join the rotation so he could effect 200 innings, opposed to 60+. Others believe that having him in the closer’s role has been quite effective, or, no reason to fix what’s not broken. What is for sure is that with the Reds, he won’t be heading to the rotation anytime soon. That ship has sailed—Chapman will be the Reds’ closer for the foreseeable future.

Now comes the dilemma: the Redlegs have the best closer in baseball, but with Jonathan Broxton gone, no reliable arms to get him the ball. The solution? Unleash the Cuban Missile. In other words, allow him to throw multiple innings. Ahead 4-3 entering the bottom of the eighth inning against St. Louis? Chapman is pitching both those innings. Tied 5-5 against the Cubs in the top of the seventh at home with the bases loaded and two outs? Chapman is finishing off that game.

This isn’t a Bryan Price problem; it’s a Major League Baseball problem. This mysterious book (which also contains baseball’s unwritten rules) on how to manage handcuffs skippers to treat their bullpens a certain way. That may work when a team has their ‘pen built to such a capacity, like they did under Dusty Baker in 2012. But come 2015, there’s too much gray area, too much unknown to set roles. It should simply be Chapman, and everybody else.

Price even pondered this idea last off-season, yet we never saw it come to fruition. In only five of his 54 appearances did Chapman record more than three outs. Most of this was due to the fact that he had one of the best set-up men in baseball last season in Broxton, but with that security blanket now by the wayside, it’s time that Aroldis becomes his own set-up man.

Many will worry about the taxing issues on his arm. As last season showed, without Chapman, this team is significantly worse off, and it won’t be much different come 2015 if he can’t stay healthy. “Going for broke” by sending him out to pitch multiple innings is only a risk if it fails; if it works out, Bryan Price will have struck gold.