The New York Yankees didn’t really compromise anything by trading away Aroldis Chapman, in return getting four players. But what they did do is turn the Chicago Cubs into an even more difficult team to beat, and they already have the best record in the majors.
The 59-39 Cubs have been looking to improve their bullpen for quite some time. They couldn’t find anything late in free agency, and so the season rolled on, waiting for an opportunity. It’s been about six or seven weeks that teams have been eyeing the Yankees rich bullpen, with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman. A fantastic trio, with Miller, the oldest of the three, the one player the Cubs really wanted, but they quickly realized the Yankees weren’t giving him away. Betances wasn’t even in the discussions.
The only question was whether the Yankees were able to admit that they’re a selling team. They’ve begun winning (51-48, 7 out of the last 10), and maybe keeping Chapman meant showing they’re still in the race? Well, they realized they can still be in the race without him, sign him next season once he hits free agency, and acquire some interesting prospects for the future, and get back Adam Warren, who was doing pretty badly with the Cubs.
Now the Cubs can move their bullpen towards the upper echelon in the league. They were 14th with a 3.83 ERA before Chapman arrived. Now he’s the closer, putting Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop in the right-handed setup, Mike Montgomery and Travis Wood in the lefty setup, with Justin Grimm, Carl Edwards and possibly Joe Nathan in the long relief and mop-up duties. Suddenly the Cubs have impressive depth everywhere, including where they were previously at their weakest.
Suddenly, the Cubs might be competing with the Nationals, who were also going after Chapman, and the Dodgers, for the best bullpen in the National League. The Kansas City Royals rode the bullpen to a couple of World Series. A good bullpen doesn’t guarantee success, but if the Cubs were very difficult to beat before, they’re as close as possible to unbeatable at the moment. Now that they seem to be over their early July and late June problems, Chapman is arriving at the perfect time to create a second-half of the season surge, with the hottest stuff in the majors, which should work in Wrigley Field just as well as it did in Yankee Stadium.