Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What would it take to acquire Aroldis Chapman?

I'm not going to beat around the bush here - the Astros need a closer. You know it, I know it, and so do the Astros.

While the Astros made huge strides in 2015 with a bullpen that ranked near the top of the league in overall season performance, it was the September/October lull that ultimately killed their season far too early.

Luke Gregerson, bless him and his horseshoe, battled valiantly all season, compiling good all-around numbers (7-3, 3.10 ERA, 31 saves) and establishing career-lows in bad things like walks (10) and advanced figures like WHIP (0.95).

Underneath those sterling numbers, however, is a very hittable late-inning reliever that can't just get you out on stuff. That's the keystone to any successful reliever, long-term. When a batter takes you through a 3-2 count, fouling off pitch after pitch, making the at-bat seem more like a life experience, you need to be able to reach back and deliver filth you wouldn't feel comfortable letting your mom see in order to push things along.

The Astros bullpen, successful as it was over the long haul, did not have one "stuff" guy to their name. So yeah, while building a decent to great bullpen can be a fairly quick and inexpensive endeavor, that "stuff" guy is someone you should definitely consider splurging on.

While the July and August trade winds came up empty in that department, with fatal consequences, the Hot Stove season seems ripe with opportunity to make up for that mid-season faux pas.

Enter: Aroldis Chapman

The Reds are holding a fairly expensive yard sale this winter, and everything not nailed down by a no-trade clause MUST. GO.

Chapman is the crown jewel of the Cincinnati Outlet Mall and thus comes at a high price. Prior to acquiring closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres earlier this month, the Red Sox were engaged in Chapman talks.

The Reds were reportedly asking for more than what the Red Sox eventually gave up for Kimbrel in spite of the fact that Kimbrel is under contract for another five seasons while Chapman is a free agent after 2016. Industry insiders widely believe the Red Sox paid too much for Kimbrel.

So the price is high. For now.

Looking at the reported asking price, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark just eight days ago, the Reds want "young talent that is Major-League-ready in trades for either (Todd) Frazier or closer Aroldis Chapman."

Other reports have the Reds asking for 3-4 of those kinds of pieces.

There is no better match for a trade - on paper - than the Astros. But, of course, the real talking point is - what would the Astros be willing to give up for, conceivably, one season of Aroldis Chapman plus a possible compensation pick if/when Chapman bolts after 2016?

The Astros could satisfy a number of Cincy's requirements without tearing down the bulk of their industry-leading farm system. Let's toss a couple packages around to see how they feel.

Astros trade:
- 1B Jon Singleton
- 3B Matt Duffy
- 2B Tony Kemp
- RHP Chris Devenski

Reds trade:
- Aroldis Chapman

Interesting and familiar names here. Singleton would be a sad departure, at least for me, because hopes were so high back in 2012 when he was rising through the system as the organization's top prospect and projected replacement for Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman. Singleton's struggles at the big league level have been a disappointment, but it's still too early to condemn him to a life of Brett Wallace.

Signed to a then-controversial, team-friendly five-year deal worth $10 million in 2014, Singleton has slashed a .171/.290/.331 line with 14 homers and 50 RBI. His strikeout numbers are atrocious and his defense is... meh. It won't harm you, but it won't save anything extra either.

On the plus side, Singleton has yet to receive a full 162 games of big league at-bats and is going to be entering his age 24 season with plenty of upside, especially to teams who may believe the Astros have misused him.

Singleton started the season in Triple-A Fresno and lit the world on fire at one point in May, going full-on Barry Bonds on just about every pitch he saw. But once he received a call-up to Houston in June and began the back-and-forth between playing/not playing/back to Fresno/back to Houston, his season took a left turn to nowhere and that's pretty much where he ended up.

Still something there, but his value diminishes each year he falls out of favor in Houston.

Devenski is another interesting name in that he's fairly high regarded prospect in the Houston system, ranked number 18 overall by MLB.com, but was recently left unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft that he's surely to be snatched up in.

After a wildly successful season at Double-A Corpus Christi, Devenski joined Triple-A Fresno in time for the postseason and pitched a beauty in the Triple-A National Championship Game, flirting with a perfect game through six innings, ultimately settling for a one-hit shutout in his first-ever game at the highest level of the minors.

As the Astros prepare for the Winter Meetings, losing another highly-regarded prospect for nothing in the Rule 5 would be painful to take. Of course, if the Astros trade him before the Winter Meetings, that would at least lessen the blow of losing him. It wouldn't be for nothing.

Kemp is a high-end prospect for the Astros who has risen quickly through the system despite his size (sound familiar?). He's completely blocked in Houston, so a trade makes complete sense. With the Reds looking to deal away long-time two-bagger Brandon Phillips, Kemp would be a key piece in replacing him.

Duffy, the 2015 PCL MVP, is yet another sleeper prospect who came out of seemingly nowhere to achieve "second-best Matt Duffy in baseball" status. His cup of coffee in Houston not withstanding, Duffy is 26 years old and is either going to make it or break it. He's too old to be a prospect, but he could be a serviceable piece for a bit while the Reds look into Todd Frazier deals and replacements for him.

Every one of these players is very close to or is Major League ready. While it isn't a package surrounding someone like Lance McCullers, like what the Yankees are rumored to want in exchange for Andrew Miller, it's a more than fair compensation package for a player in his final season.

Astros trade:
- 2B Tony Kemp
- RHP Chris Devenski
- 1B Jon Singleton
- RHP Michael Feliz
- RHP Akeem Bostick

Reds trade:
- LHP Aroldis Chapman
- RHP Nick Howard

Feliz and Bostick round out an impressive package that takes away two of Houston's three most major league-ready arms, as well as a highly projectable Bostick.

If any of these two deals, or close variations of them, occur, it should be considered a win for both sides. The Reds get a great jump start to their rebuilding by acquiring arms, projects and prospects, and the Astros get the flamethrower they so desperately need.

The Reds would like to wrap up the Chapman part of their off-season prior to the Winter Meetings, which start in just under two weeks.

Let's see what happens.