When news first broke that the Cubs were rumored to be including shortstop Gleyber Torres plus others in a deal for Aroldis Chapman, I thought that it would be a massive overpay for someone who will likely throw just 30 innings for the Cubs this year. After rumors of a 4 year $60 million extension turned out to be false, Torres, outfielder Billy McKinney, righthander Adam Warren, and outfielder Rashad Crawford seemed like an awful lot for the Cubs to surrender in a Chapman deal. So the question lingers, did the Cubs overpay for Aroldis Chapman?
When the Red Sox acquired closer Craig Kimbrel last offseason, the package that they sent to the Padres was widely seen as an expensive price to pay, but a fair one. Kimbrel, coming off a lackluster season by his standards, was acquired for four Red Sox prospects, two of which who were top 100 prospects at the time. CF Manuel Margot, the headlining prospect in the deal, was ranked as the 25th best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. Margot was coming off a solid season, splitting time between High-A and Double-A, batting an impressive .276/.324/.419 with 39 stolen bases at the age of 20. The second top 100 prospect included in the deal, shortstop Javier Guerra, was rated as the 76th best prospect in baseball, hit .279/.329/.449 with 15 home runs in short season A ball, while playing stellar defense at short.
The top two prospects in this deal are staggeringly similar to what the Cubs just gave up to acquire Chapman, as Gleyber Torres is currently ranked 24th on MLB.com, while Billy McKinney is rated as the 75th best prospect in baseball. Even though McKinney's stock is down this year after a subpar first half, he still posses an above average hit tool. While Kimbrel and Chapman are considered as two of the top three closers in baseball, there is something that is dissimilar between the two deals. When the Red Sox acquired Kimbrel, he still had two years left on his contract, with an option for a third year. An argument can be made that the price to acquire high end talent is steeper during the deadline than it is in the offseason, but then I would point you to the Andrew Miller deal in 2014.
When Miller was acquired by the Orioles in 2014, he owned an ERA of 2.34, a FIP of 1.69, and a K/9 rate of 14.7. Miller was seen as the top lefty available on the market that year, and was acquired for lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez. Like Chapman, Miller was due to be a free agent at the end of the season. Heading into the 2014 season, Rodriguez was ranked as the 68th best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. While Rodriguez was a well regarded prospect coming into the year, he struggled in Double-A, recording an ERA of 4.79 and a WHIP of 1.44. Even while having a difficult year in Double-A, the Red Sox were applauded for acquiring a top 100 prospect for just two months of Miller.
Chapman will be a fantastic addition to a Cubs bullpen that has seen its ERA increase every month since the start of the season. Adding a guy who owns the highest K/9 rate in the history of baseball (15.2) and who has a career .123/.234/.155 line against lefties will undoubtedly make the Cubs the favorites to win it all heading into October. In adding Chapman, the Cubs assured that they wouldn't have to face him in the postseason. In 8 and 2/3 innings against the Cubs last year, Chapman struck out 15 batters, while only surrendering two runs.
Could the Cubs have gotten more for the package they used to get Chapman? Probably. However, Torres was blocked by the current infield of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez for the foreseeable future. McKinney is trending downward, and wouldn't unseat Jorge Soler or Kyle Schwarber in left field any time soon. Adam Warren was mediocre at best for the Cubs, and Rashad Crawford looks like a 4th outfielder. And perhaps most importantly, the Cubs added one of the best relievers in the game, albeit for two months, without giving up Schwarber, Baez, or Soler. That's a win in my book.
Without an extension, it still looks like the Cubs overpaid for Chapman when comparing this deal to ones in the past. But, the Cubs could have an inside track on resigning Chapman in the offseason. A pitch centered on being the highest paid reliever in the history of the sport, while being on a team that will contend for a championship year in and year out, would have to be pretty difficult to turn down. Chapman would also have the familiarity with the Cubs personnel, as well as the new facilities at Wrigley. But if Chapman is the man on the mound when the Cubs win the World Series, giving up Torres will be more than worth it, regardless of what uniform Chapman is wearing next year.