Aroldis Chapman signing shouldn't change Yankees' plan to rebuild

Rebuilding continues to do wonders for Brian Cashman’s image.

The Yankee GM, seemingly wearing out his welcome with fans in recent years with some empty Octobers, changed the conversation last summer, getting rave reviews for the sell-off at the trade deadline.

And now he’s put a bow on his wheeling and dealing by bringing back Aroldis Chapman, some four months after trading him to the Cubs. Which, of course, means that he acquired Gleyber Torres, regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball since earning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League, essentially for nothing.

Not that the Cubs are complaining, since Chapman played an important role in helping them break that 108-year championship drought.

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And they decided not to try to re-sign him, making a smart trade on Wednesday instead, dealing Jorge Soler to the Royals for Wade Davis.

Nevertheless, this is still a coup for Cashman and the Yankees, bringing back the most intimidating closer in the game, and certainly one of the very best.

JULY 18, 2016, FILE PHOTO

Aroldis Chapman is coming back to the Bronx, but the rebuild process will also continue. 

(Bill Kostroun/AP)

The irony, of course, is that even as they commit to a rebuild with young players, determined to get under the luxury-tax threshold next winter, the Yankees flexed some of their old financial might to lock up Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract that is by far the most money ever paid to a closer.

Still, this wasn’t some impetuous reaction from the old George Steinbrenner playbook to the Red Sox getting Chris Sale.

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No, this was Cashman’s intent all along, his one big-ticket wish for this winter, getting a unique talent that will help the Yankees be competitive in 2017 and be there when they’re ready to contend for championships again, perhaps as soon as 2018.

But there’s no getting around it: That’s a lot of dough for a closer, and perhaps more significantly, a lot of years for a guy who throws harder than any pitcher in baseball, and by a lot when he’s cranking it up to 103, 104 mph at times.

Chapman will be 29 in February. Can his arm survive such torque into his 30s? He’s a freakishly superior athlete, and that surely helps, but it’s still a gamble for that type of money.

The Cubs acquired closer Wade Davis for outfielder Jorge Soler on Wednesday.

The Cubs acquired closer Wade Davis for outfielder Jorge Soler on Wednesday.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

Cashman and the Yankees are willing to take it, however, because they want that bullpen greatness that seemingly every championship team has these days.

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And they’re willing to pay for it now even when Cashman has admitted his team isn’t quite ready to win yet, or, as he said, he would have been trying to deal some of his young talent for Sale.

No, Cashman still wants to do this rebuild right.

In fact, he wants to get to the place where Theo Epstein is, not just coming off a championship but having built a roster so loaded with young, talented position players that he could afford to trade a potential star like the 24-year-old Soler for Davis, the Royals’ closer.

Indeed, you knew Theo, with that Cubs’ championship in his pocket, would find a smart, more cost-efficient way to fill the closer role than paying huge money to Chapman.

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And the Cubs have so many outfielders that they don’t really have a spot for Soler in the immediate future. So why not use him to go get a closer who is every bit as dominant as Chapman, albeit without the triple-digit fastball.

There’s some risk involved, to be sure, as Davis was on the disabled list two different times last season due to forearm strains, but he did pitch all of September without a problem.

For the Cubs it’s worth the gamble at a cost of $10 million, as Davis pitches for a big payday as a free agent next winter.

If he gets hurt again, well, Epstein is deep enough in position-player talent that he could give up Soler without doing any real damage to the Cubs’ chances of winning more championships over the next few years.

Which is exactly the position that Cashman wants to be in, as early as a year from now, as he continues to rebuild the Yankees with prospect depth.

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Yankees prospects Gleyber Torres (l.) and Clint Frazier.

(Cliff Welch/AP)

As it is, he could have made a run at Sale, but he wants another year to let his young farm-system talent develop, so the Yankees can see who looks like the real thing and who doesn’t.

If all goes well, a year from now Torres, James Kaprielian, Clint Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Justus Sheffield and others will be ready to join the young big-league nucleus of Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Luis Severino.

That and a payroll below next winter’s $195 million luxury-tax threshold would put Cashman in a position to do big deals, either via trades or free agency, for a team ready to be contenders again.

The Chapman signing, big as it is, doesn’t change the plan, not with another $46 million coming off the books next winter via the expiring contracts for CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

Nope, as incongruous as it may sound after they shattered the record for paying a reliever, patience is still the buzzword for the Yankees at the moment.

The rebuild continues, for Cashman’s image as well as the Yankees.  

Tags:
mlb
new york yankees
chicago cubs
brian cashman
theo epstein
wade davis
mlb transactions

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