Red Sox Trade Target: Closer Aroldis Chapman


It’s no secret that the Red Sox are attempting to revamp their starting rotation heading into next season after another down-year in the AL East. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski hasn’t been shy about admitting Boston’s need for quality front-of-the-rotation pitching. However, it’s important to remember that the Red Sox bullpen also underperformed in 2015 and will need some serious work to rebuild.

According to Ricky Doyle on, “The Red Sox ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.24 bullpen ERA. Boston’s relief corps posted a -1.4 WAR, which was the worst mark in baseball.” This is a huge problem heading into 2016 no matter how they rearrange the pieces of the starting staff.

One way to improve the overall performance of the bullpen would be to become even stronger at the closer position. The Red Sox still have the services of Koji Uehara for another season. The only other strong reliever that is definitely returning is Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa and Uehara have combined to be the 1-2 punch in the eighth and ninth innings for a few seasons now, and while they’ve definitely had their fair share of success, Koji will be 41 years old at the start of the 2016 season and will be returning from a fractured wrist at the end of 2015. He also has had shoulder issues in the past.

There is no guarantee that Koji will remain healthy and effective for the entirety of 2016, therefore the Red Sox need to make sure they have some insurance in place. I am of the belief that the Red Sox should target the services of Cincinnati Red closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman would provide much more than simple insurance – at 27 years old the Red Sox could lock Chapman up for years to come.

Chapman avoided arbitration before last season to sign a one year deal worth just over eight million dollars. He is again eligible for arbitration heading into 2016 and will officially a free agent after next season, but the Red Sox could avoid that issue by simply locking him up long-term this year. There is no reason to believe that Chapman would not want to have the assurance of a solid four or five year deal now, especially if his 2016 salary will get a bump as a direct result.

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So just what does Chapman bring to the table? Perhaps his nicknames of “the Cuban missile” or “the Cuban Flame Thrower” can provide a clue. He’s a fastball/slider lefty who can toss an occasional change-up, but sticks mostly to the power pitches. His fastball is routinely in the high 90’s, but of course there were reports of him getting as high as 105 mph in 2010.

Since taking over the closer role for the Reds in 2012, Chapman has never had less than 30 saves and having as many as 38 in 2012 and 2013. He pitched the most innings of his career in 2015 with 66.1, yet posted an ERA of 1.63, his lowest ever. He added 116 strikeouts in 2015 and has had more than 100 K’s in every season as the Reds’ closer. Also, remember that WAR stat that was so atrocious for the Sox bullpen? Chapman had a WAR of 2.5 last season and 2.7 in 2014. Fangraphs projects Chapman to have another stellar season in 2016 with 65 innings pitched, 28 saves and an ERA of 2.00.

It’s not exactly clear what Cincinnati is after or what they would be willing to move Chapman for. Robert Murray of Baseball Essential has reported that the Reds are not only listening to offers, they are looking to move Chapman this offseason. His name was floated around at the trade deadline, however according to all reports the asking price was astronomical (as many as four solid prospects). Perhaps now the Reds would look to do something a little more reasonable.

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According to, any of their players could be up for grabs as they look go toward a total overhaul of the roster. That leads me to believe that a combination of position player prospects may get it done allowing the Red Sox to hold onto their coveted young pitchers. If the Reds are truly considering moving third baseman Todd Frazier as well (it would be insane if the Sox could add Frazier also and move Sandoval but that’s just too much to ask), perhaps they would be willing to pull the trigger on a Rafael Devers/Sam Travis deal. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a Jackie Bradley Jr. or Blake Swihart involved in a deal like this as well. Dombrowski may be willing to part with one of his big arms in order to land Chapman if the starting rotation is shored up.

If the Sox can land one of the big aces up for grabs or trade for one and they are able to make a deal for Chapman, most of their big problems could be solved. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo discussed that particular scenario yesterday with Dombrowski not ruling out adding a big-armed closer to the mix. A bullpen headed by Chapman, Uehara and Tazawa would be a dream for the Sox and a complete nightmare for opponents.