It has just been announced the new Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will be suspended for the first 30 games of the season. He will be allowed to participate in all Spring Training games and activities which is important for his preparation. Building up a pitcher’s arm is the most important aspect of Spring Training and luckily he’ll be able to do that. Chapman will be eligible to pitch in the regular season on May 9 against the Kansas City Royals. Here is his statement via Ken Rosenthal:
Statement by #Yankees‘ Chapman:
“Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting… https://t.co/uNzflS1J0n
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 1, 2016
Chapman’s decision to not appeal and work openly with Major League Baseball likely played into the reason the suspension isn’t worse than 30 games. Barring injury, that means the Yankees will have their new closer available for 132 games or about 5/6 of the season. Everybody knew that a suspension was likely when the trade was made with the Cincinnati Reds so this isn’t a surprise.
As it stands the Yankees traded four minor leaguers for an elite closer who will be available to pitch for 83% of the season. You make that trade every single day of the week. None of the minor leaguers they gave up were any of their true top prospects and they still get Chapman for a huge chunk of the season. As I said at the time of the trade, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Losing your closer is normally a tough pill to swallow. Fortunate teams have a setup man who is capable of stepping in and filling the role (see the Mets and Jeurys Familia last season) but I’m not sure the Yankees have that kind of player on th – I’m totally kidding. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are still on the roster and both of those guys have the makeup of an elite closer.
Last season Miller actually was the closer when he went 36 for 38 in save chances while posting a 2.04 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP. He was lined up to be the closer again this season before the blockbuster trade went down. Then there’s Betances who filled in for Miller when he had a stint on the DL going 9 for 13 in save chances with a 1.50 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. He is one of, if not the best setup men in the sport. I think it’s safe to say that the Yankees will be juuuuust fiiiiiiine without Aroldis Chapman for a month.
Even before the suspension, the Yankees bullpen after their trio of elite closers was a big question mark. Chasen Shreve was brilliant last season before he fell apart at the end of the year. The Yankees need him to be the pitcher he was from April through August, not the one in September. They also need some other kids from Triple-A to step up and fill the middle relief innings. Chapman’s suspension just ramps up the need for those guys to pitch well early on.
You never want a player to be suspended, but if someone has to be suspended, have it be one of your three elite closers. It hurts, of course, but by no means does it derail the season. May 9 with all three big guns available will be really fun though. Really fun.