The Cincinnati Reds signed Aroldis Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million contract back in 2010 with the expectation that the Cuban defector would become a starting pitcher. But after three seasons in the bullpen, it looks like the hard-throwing lefty will be staying in the bullpen for the near future after a failed attempt to turn him into a starter this spring.
In 2012, Chapman was the Reds closer, and was absolutely stellar. He tossed 71.2 innings over 68 appearances, and struck out 122 batters while allowing just 13 runs (12 earned), 35 hits and 23 walks. He finished the season with a 1.51 ERA, and a 0.81 WHIP, with 38 saves in 43 opportunities.
The 25-year-old has made it known that his preference would be to stay in the bullpen and Reds manager Dusty Baker agrees with him. But Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price both seem to want him to transition into a starter.
Well, Chapman and Baker seem to have won out, as the Reds are expected to announce on Thursday that Chapman will resume his duties as the team’s closer, while right-hander Mike Leake will take the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation.
But just because Chapman is headed back to the bullpen doesn’t mean this debate won’t get brought up again. These days baseball teams hate paying too much for a closer, especially if he has the stuff to pitch more than just 70-ish innings a year. It’s a waste of his talent for him to be relegated to the ‘pen.
There is sure to be a ton of debate about this during the season, but it’s unlikely that Cincinnati’s management will rethink things until next spring. So for now settle in for another year of triple-digit fastballs from Chapman late in games.