What Trading Aroldis Chapman Would Mean for the Cincinnati Reds

Jun 3, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher

Aroldis Chapman

(54) reacts after allowing three run home run to Philadelphia Phillies third baseman

Maikel Franco

(7) (not pictured) during the ninth inning at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Reds, 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi reported that the Cincinnati Reds are in preliminary talks with the Washington Nationals to trade Aroldis Chapman. Upon first hearing this, I was against the idea of the Reds trading away their star closer and undoubtedly best bullpen pitcher, especially considering the state of their tumultuous bullpen. But considering the high trade value Chapman has, it may be advantageous for the Reds to send Chapman to Washington.

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I, like many in baseball these days, have long since stopped believing in saves as a valuable statistic, and feel that the closer position is overrated. As Michael Lewis wrote in Money Ball:

“You could take a slightly about average pitcher, and drop him into the closer’s role, let him accumulate some gaudy number of saves, and sell him off. You could, in essence, buy a stock, pump it full of false publicity, and sell it off for much more than you paid for it.”

That quote perfectly explains the Reds’ situation and the value attached to Chapman in the possible trade with the Nationals.

But is Aroldis Chapman simply an average pitcher who’s accumulated a gaudy number of saves? In his six years with the Reds, Chapman has collected 125 saves and posted a 2.31 ERA with a strikeout to walk ratio of 3.42. Chapman’s numbers are very impressive, but is he really irreplaceable?

If Chapman does get traded to the Nationals, the Reds would most likely name J.J. Hoover as their new closer. Hoover, who is having a great 2015 with an ERA of 1.59 (compared to Chapman’s 2.22 ERA), has career 3.28 ERA and a 2.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Hoover has very respectable career numbers and has a lower ERA in 2015 than Chapman does. So if his number are better than Chapman’s, is Hoover really a candidate as Chapman’s replacement?

If you’re looking for just speed, then no. Hoover, who has a fastball that tops out around 94 mph, will never have the heat that Chapman does. But he does have a lower 2015 ERA than Chapman, and he does walk fewer batters. So if Hoover’s numbers are better and he can get outs, it shouldn’t matter that he doesn’t have the kind of heat that Chapman has. All that matters is if he can get outs, and not give up runs. And if Hoover’s numbers stay the way they are now, he could be a viable replacement for Chapman, and a good closer for the Reds.

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If the Reds are thinking about rebuilding, trading Chapman may be a good place to start simply because a lot of teams are going to want him, and he could come with a high price tag. Because the Reds have pumped up his value so well, selling him off could be beneficial for the Reds, as long as Hoover’s numbers remain respectable and he continues to get batters out.

But what could the Reds get for Chapman? The Nationals are a team with a lot of talented players, an amazing starting rotation and the 16th best farm system in baseball as ranked by Bleacher Report. If the Reds want to get younger, the National’s farm system would be a good place to start. MLB.com ranks National’s RHP Lucas Giolito as the number one prospect for 2015, with an estimated time of arrival to the majors of 2016. Giolito is currently pitching in the Carolina League (High-A) with the Potomac Nationals and has a career 2.60 ERA. Giolitio shows a lot of promise and would be a great addition someday to the Cincinnati Reds.

While it may be unlikely that the Nationals would trade away their number one prospect, they do have other promising young talent. Their second-best prospect, Trea Turner, is a Double-A shortstop that has a career minor league batting average of .322 and an .855 OPS. Additionally, A.J. Cole, the National’s third-ranked prospect, is a Triple-A RHP with some big league experience and a 3.66 career minor league ERA.

If the Reds are committed to getting younger and plan to do any sort of rebuilding, any of these three prospects would be a good place to start. If the Reds aren’t anywhere near the .500 mark by the time of the All-Star Game, it’s very likely they could have a fire sale on some of their older and highly sought after players to begin the rebuilding process. And trading Aroldis Chapman to the Nationals could be the first trade of that fire sale.

Next: Reds place Cingrani on 15-day DL