Aroldis Chapman is perhaps the best reliever in baseball over the last several years. He’s helped the Cincinnati Reds shut down games since he joined the big league club in the second half of the 2010 season. He’s thrown the hardest pitch ever recorded in baseball and he’s throwing so much harder than everyone else that MLB.com actually had to install a “Chapman filter” on the leaderboard for fastest pitches thrown because the entire first page was only Aroldis Chapman fastballs. He dominates in a way that no other pitcher in the game dominates.
For as good and as dominant as he’s been, the current state of the franchise suggests it’s the time to move him. He’s set to become a free agent after the 2016 season and the Reds are not in the position to compete in 2016. A team that acquires him now will have the option to offer him a qualifying offer after the season, which he will decline to pursue a much larger deal in free agency, and give them a strong draft pick in the 2017 class. Trading him during the 2016 season takes that away, and would lessen the return, likely by a significant amount, for the Reds. That draft pick alone should be worth a quality prospect that falls inside of every Top 10 in baseball, and plenty of Top 5’s.
Then of course is the actual trade value outside of what the qualifying offer will bring. A team acquiring Chapman will be getting one of the best relievers in the game. If he’s not the best, he’s absolutely one of the three best in baseball. He’s going to turn any bullpen on a contender into a real weapon. History has shown us time and again that a lock down bullpen wins in the playoffs. Chapman will give that to you for the 9th inning. What is that worth?
We can start by looking at the package that the Red Sox just gave up for Craig Kimbrel, who along with Chapman, is inside of that “top three relievers in the game” circle (along with Wade Davis). The Red Sox gave up Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje and Logan Allen. Margot and Guerra were the big gets in this deal. Margot is viewed as a Top 50 prospect in baseball and Guerra as a likely Top 100 prospect in baseball. Logan Allen is just 18-years-old, but signed for 2nd round money out of the 2014 draft and dominated in limited action in 2015. Asuaje is more of a utility type of player who is close to helping at the big league level, but doesn’t have much upside.
Kimbrel is under contract for three more seasons, giving him more trade value than that of Chapman. So there are going to be some differences in what to expect, but based on the value given up to acquire Kimbrel the Reds should be asking for a Top 50 prospect in baseball as well as at least one other upside kind of player who may still be a few years away from helping the club, along with a third player who may project better as a utility guy or a reliever that’s close.