The Yankees Made the Right Move

The New York Yankees had already announced that they were shopping star closer Aroldis Chapman, and this week it was announced that they had officially traded him to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for 19-year-old prospect Gleybar Torres, pitcher Adam Warren, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and a fourth player to be named later. The recent hot streak the Yankees had struck had brought up questions on whether or not they were buyers or sellers, and a move of this caliber certainly appears (at least at its surface) to mean that the Yankees are announcing they are officially sellers, with more moves possibly in the works. There are also questions regarding why Torres was the primary prospect in the deal, when the Yankees already have both a good shortstop in Didi Gregorius, and impending holes at first base and right field at the start of next season. However, I believe that the Yankees shipping off Chapman was almost an intrinsic net positive for them, and here’s why:

1. The Yankees needed to prioritize Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. One of the more intangible aspects of those two pitchers is that they don’t quite have the superstar status that Chapman does, partly due to the fact that Chapman’s 105 MPH fastball potential is exciting; it’s almost the pitching equivalent to Giancarlo Stanton’s 500-foot home-run potential. The trio of Yankees relievers are undoubtedly three of the best in the MLB: Betances, Miller, and Chapman are 3rd, 2nd, and 1st in FIP- since the start of the 2014 season, and 1st, 4th, and 7th in WPA/LI in that same time frame, respectively. Miller was an obvious keep, as he is signed through the 2018 season and for $9 million per year he is giving the Yankees terrific value. Betances will be up for arbitration this winter, so he also isn’t going anywhere either and will most likely still deliver great value. If the Yankees keep Chapman, then miss the playoffs, then keeping him was pointless unless they wanted to sign him to a long-term deal. Paying both of them also means they have less money to spend on a bat, something they will certainly need to do. Letting Chapman go makes the most sense here for sure.

2. Good teams don’t win close games, because good teams don’t play in close games. The Yankees offense has struggled immensely this year, and while the Yankees can end a game which they are winning through six innings, they forgot the most important part of that strategy: Having a lead after six innings. The Yankees’ poor offense has meant they have been in a lot of close games, and they are 2nd in the MLB with a 16-9 record in one-run games. It would be more beneficial for the Yankees to improve their rotation and their lineup though, because their bullpen can’t blow a lead if they don’t even have one. Torres and McKinney are hardly ready for the MLB yet, and obviously there are no guarantees that they will even evolve into star ballplayers. However, they can also now be used as trade chips in the future if need be, or even be used in a trade this season. Or, who knows? Maybe they’ll both become stars and will start for New York within the next five years. When the Yankees are freed of Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and CC Sabathia this offseason, they’ll have some money to spend, and now they’ll be able to spend it on having a more complete team.

3. Adam Warren is no chump. His 141 FIP- this year hardly disproves that, but his 88 FIP- in three years with the Yankees from 2013 through 2015 does. More importantly, Warren gives the Yankees innings. He has the ability to start, and he can also give more than one inning coming out of the bullpen. Obviously he’s no Aroldis Chapman, but throwing Warren out there in the 6th or 7th is hardly a risk, and ending a game with Betances/Miller is still essentially game over. If they have more offense then having Warren around to eat innings becomes more valuable than having Chapman around to save some games, but having him sit on the bench any time the Yankees don’t have a lead after six.

At this point, it is clear that the Cubs are going all-in on winning the World Series this year, and felt that Chapman was the missing piece of the puzzle. They also have confidence in Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, and Javier Baez to secure the middle infield for the next X number of years. With the Yankees, it’s a little bit more complex, and considering every aspect of this trade is what tells us that it makes sense, and that it was the right move. The Yankees have always been known as buying their teams, and not building them, as their payroll consistently ranks among the highest in the MLB. There’s no saying they’ve completely abandoned that strategy, but at least here they find themselves selling in a very smart way. They weren’t going to benefit from potentially signing Chapman in the offseason, so instead of just losing him and his contract they figured they’d add pieces along the way. I’m not saying the Yankees have won the trade, because in my opinion you can only judge the intelligence of a trade by the information that was present when the trade was made. Considering everything we know right now, Yankees have made a very intelligent move, and it sets a precedent for more intelligent moves in the near future.

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Freshman at Boston University studying economics. Raised in Portland, Oregon. Been in love with/following sabermetrics ever since I was about 15, and have just now decided to start writing articles. Dream of being the GM for a big league team someday.

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