The Chapman saga has deeper meaning

There has been a lot of talk about Aroldis Chapman lately after Paul Dougherty wrote that the Reds intended to move him to the bullpen. No one else confirmed what Dougherty’s unnamed source told him and the announcement certainly hasn’t come down (Reds brass denied there was even anything to announce), so there’s still a great deal of uncertainty.

Much has been written about Chapman, but I thought it would be a good idea to toss together a summary of all the issues at play.

1. Chapman’s performance—You can place me firmly in the camp of those who believe Chapman should start (or at least undergo a genuine transition to starting), but we shouldn’t deny his value as a reliever.

Last year, in 71.2 innings, Chapman generated 3.3 WAR. Much has been made of the unchanging frequency with which teams entering the the ninth with a lead win, but that is still a lot of value from a relief pitcher. Chapman finished tied for 34th in fWAR among all pitchers. He should provide serious value no matter what the Reds do with him.

2. Mike Leake—The forgotten man in this discussion is Mike Leake, who stands to be the fifth starter if Chapman closes. Leake is probably an average pitcher who’s been a bit unlucky and plenty of teams would be thrilled to have him anywhere in the rotation. The Reds will likely hold onto him either way so he can slot into Bronson Arroyo‘s place when the latter leaves at the end of this season.

3. Expensive bullpen—Chapman officially makes only $2 million this year, but he got a hefty signing bonus and his real cost is more like $5 million per year. Sean Marshall will be paid $4.5 million this year and Jonathan Broxton, who was signed explicitly to allow Chapman to start, makes $4 million.

All three players are signed through 2015 and all will receive substantial raises over the next several years. That is a lot of money to spend on three players who are probably good for only as many innings in one year as Johnny Cueto will throw on his own. The Reds have shown a consistent willingness to overpay for relief talent.

4. Bob Castellini—Two things have been made abundantly clear this spring. Dusty Baker wants Chapman to close. Walt Jocketty wants him to start. Given that Jocketty is higher in the pecking order, it should be easy to figure out what happens. But it isn’t. The reason, I have to believe, is Reds’ owner Bob Castellini.

No Reds fans can complain about how the team has been run lately, but if the owner is going to start meddling in baseball operations, it’s only going to add to confusion about who, exactly, is running this team. What is taking place right now is a organizational power struggle between Baker and Jocketty and who wins might tell us a lot about how the team is going to be run and who is most likely to be around over the next several years.

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  1. Craig B said...

    So what was your point? You conclude AC will have big value no matter what posistion, don’t say if he’ll have a higher WAR as a starter, and don’t analyze the effect of Leake starting or not starting.

    You don’t know the name of the owner (Its Bob, not Phil), but seem to claim insight into an organization power struggle.  Dusty and Walt are both signed for the next few years.  Walt is almost solely ressponsible for putting this group together.

    I expect more from THT

  2. Jason Linden said...

    The point, as stated in the second paragraph is to lay out the different issues at play in this decision.

    That was just a slip. Phil is his brother and part of the ownership group. I’ll try to get that corrected.

    And I do know the Reds. If you doubt that, go over to Redleg Nation where I write regularly.

    Do I know for certain there was a power struggle? No, but no one really does. I do know that Jocketty signed a closer so Chapman could start, said all offseason and into spring training that Chapman would start. I know that pitching coach Bryan Price said there was a plan in order to limit Chapman’s innings while allowing him to transition into starting and keep him available for the playoffs. I know that Dusty Baker griped about all of this from the get go. And then, quite suddenly and with no apparent rhyme or reason, the plan changed. Sounds like a power struggle to me.

  3. Jason Linden said...

    Brad – The name thing was fair, and I fixed that.

    Failure to understand the point of the article is a result of skimming. It’s clearly stated in the brief second paragraph. Let’s make a deal: I’ll continue doing my best to communicate my ideas as long as others actually read my articles before commenting on them.

    Assumptions that I don’t know the team are poorly founded on a simple mistake.

    Regardless of what you think of my writing or the writing on the site in general, overtly hostile comments such as the first one do nothing to advance discussion. Indeed, they hinder it. We’ve been having all manner of issue with this lately at the Reds blog where I write. It makes comments sections no fun and baseball is supposed to be fun.

  4. Brad said...

    If you want people to take your opinions seriously, do a better job of communicating them. Your response comes off as emotional when, while your article makes some valid points, you deserved the nudge that he offered (which wasn’t overdone at all). This type of stuff is why I rarely frequent THT anymore.


  5. chattanooga said...

    I agree with craig.  The burden of communication lies on the writer, not the reader.  Jason should just accept the criticism and improve from it.

  6. Jason Linden said...

    Craig, you’re still missing the point. I’m not making arguments as to why Chapman should start. I believe he should, and I’ve made all those arguments before. But the point of this post was to highlight that there’s more to the issue than just will he/won’t he.

    The outcome here says a lot about what kind of workload will be expected from Leake, how the Reds are using fairly limited resources on the bullpen, and who,exactly, is running the show in the Reds organization.

    I don’t bash Jocketty at all. If the decisions were up to him, I’d wager Chapman would be starting. I am bashing Baker in the sense that I believe he is much too traditional a manager. He’s great at managing personalities, but he has failed for years at effectively managing a roster.

  7. Bunto Skiffler said...

    “Can bear witness to Baker’s questionable ability to manage a roster from years of watching him in SF”

    Said with British understatement.

  8. Dave Vidaver said...

    Can bear witness to Baker’s questionable ability to manage a roster from years of watching him in SF. Heard that he once said OBP wasn’t as an important metric for player evaluation as RBIS and Runs as it just meant you were clogging up the bases.

  9. Craig B said...

    Jason you weaken your credibility by blaming the reader.  Your premise was you would summarize all the facts, but you really just sought a path to the same bashing of Baker, Jocketty, and Castellini that makes many Reds blogs largely unreadable.

    For the record, there are several articulate arguments over there on RLN as to why AC should start.  You just didn’t capture any of them here.

    I hoped to find something on THT a little more analytical than typical blog fare.  Didn’t happen.  Doesn’t mean I didn’t read every word you wrote.

  10. NastyNate82 said...

    The Chapman situation is starting to make me wonder if teams putting young-gun pitchers into the pen to start is even worth the trouble. I think with a combination of their stuff and small sample size, fans and the media get seduced by the numbers more than they should. I never understand the idea of “we have this young guy, throws really hard, has great breaking stuff…so lets have him pitch less by making him a reliever.” An overly simplistic view in some cases, but I still think guys with lots of stuff should prove they can’t start before you put them in the pen for good.
    As a Buccos fan, I’d love to see the Reds waste an asset by sticking Chapman in the pen. But as a baseball fan…man, I’d really like to see what he can do as a starter.

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