Superstar closer Aroldis Chapman believes the Yankees have something in common with the World Series title-winning Cubs.
Aroldis Chapman may have only spent a few months with the Chicago Cubs last year, but his time there certainly left an impression. Winning a World Series to break a 108-year-old curse will do that. Now back with the New York Yankees on a record-breaking five-year, $86 million deal, the flamethrowing closer believes the Bronx Bombers can follow in the footsteps of the reigning champs.
Per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, Chapman visited the Yankees’ Spring Training complex in Tampa this weekend to get a head start on setting up his locker. While there, he spoke to the media about his optimism for the club:
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“I’ve seen a lot of teams do this,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “We just saw it happen with Chicago. It’s something very impressive that they’re following this youth movement. Houston is another team that you see them getting young guys. It’s something good, and this is going to be a very good team.”
Trading Chapman to the Cubs prior to the deadline was one of the decisions that really got that Yankees youth movement underway. They acquired a package headlined by shortstop Gleyber Torres, now ranked by MLB Pipeline as the #3 prospect in baseball. Shipping Andrew Miller to Cleveland then netted them outfielder Clint Frazier (#24 on Pipeline) and left-hander Justus Sheffield. Along with the rest of their young talent, the Yanks suddenly have a rich farm system ranked by most within the league’s top five.
The Cubs, masterminded by president Theo Epstein, adhered to a similar blueprint as they built MLB’s current powerhouse. They were also able to leverage existing assets into promising young stars, as seen in the trades that turned Jeff Samardzija into Addison Russell and Andrew Cashner into Anthony Rizzo.
However, Chicago used a staggering five consecutive last-place finishes from 2010 to 2014 to collect a litany of high draft picks, selections they used on players like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Javier Baez. Obviously, the Yankees have not performed poorly enough to attain that kind of draft position. Nevertheless, they seem to have been more successful than usual of late with first-round selections like Blake Rutherford and James Kaprielian, players they hope will make significant impacts for them in the years ahead.
With their young foundation in place, the Cubs used free agent signings to put the finishing touches on their championship-contending squad. They opened their wallet to bring in the likes of Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist to fill in the remaining gaps on the team. It couldn’t have worked out much better for Epstein and company. The Cubs won 97 games and reached the NLCS in 2015. They racked up 103 victories last year and took home the World Series title in thrilling seven-game fashion. And it doesn’t look like they’re stopping anytime soon.
While a lot still had to go right for the Cubs to make their rebuild such a resounding success, the general principles are becoming more and more commonplace in a league where it has grown increasingly difficult to build your team through offseason spending sprees alone. For the Yankees, that used to be the perennial strategy. Now, they’re hoping to construct a team built to last.
Chapman surely won’t be the only Yankee this spring who expresses faith in the long-term plan. They’re still probably a couple years away, though. The fabled 2018-19 free agent class might arrive at exactly the right time. By that point, several of the organization’s young players will have had an opportunity to establish themselves at the major league level. The club can then pursue free agents from a historically deep pool in an effort to put itself over the top.