Why Did the Cubs Allow Chapman to Go Back to the Yankees?

Though Chapman has said he didn’t agree with the way the Joe Maddon used him in the playoffs, you have to wonder why the Cubs let him sign with the Yankees.

By now we know that acquiring Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees on Aug. 1 was a brilliant move for the Cubs – as his inclusion helped seal Chicago’s first World Series crown since 1908. But the question I’ve wrestled with is why did GM Theo Epstein never seem all that interested in resigning the soon-to-be 29-year-old flamethrower?

Is it because of just that – a growing concern that all pitchers that regularly top 100 mph eventually lose some velocity over time, forcing them to heavily rely on their secondary – more hittable pitches?

I honestly feel had the Cubs not come away victorious against the Indians in that classic seven-game series, fans of the Cubbies would have been up in arms about the package of prospects sent to Yankees.

While I understand that the Cubs were trading No. 1 prospect Gleyber Torres from a position of abundance (second-year shortstop Addison Russell isn’t going anywhere anytime soon), it’s likely Epstein would have been forced to at least offer Chapman some kind of extension – as a way of saving face.

So maybe Cubs Manager Joe Maddon overused Chapman in the Postseason to the point of ruination? After all, according to Chapman’s recent comments, a big part of his own reluctance in wanting to return to the Windy City seemed to have something to do with Maddon’s unconventional methods.

“I think he was wrong in the way he used me,” Chapman said. “He abused me a bit on how much he made me pitch, and sometimes he made me pitch when I didn’t need to pitch.”

273 pitches thrown in 13 playoff appearances, including 42 pitches in 2.2 innings in Game 5 –eventually leading to an eight-out save are alarmingly high numbers for a relief pitcher.

Skeptics will argue that Chapman began his career as a starter, yet they fail to reference the fact this was when he first arrived from Cuba back in 2010.

After only one day of rest following Game 5, Maddon called upon Chapman again, this time in the 7th inning of a 7-2 affair. It wasn’t until 20 pitches later, after walking Bradon Guyer to begin the 9th inning that Maddon pulled Chapman from the contest.

“I don’t think I needed to come in the game,” Chapman said. “The important game was going to be Game 7 because basically we had (Game 6) almost won. Then I had to pitch Game 7 and I was a little tired.”

In the pivotal series clincher, Maddon went to the well yet again, handing Chapman the ball with a 6-3 lead in the 8th inning. Though Chapman now admits he “felt a little different” even before the Indians scored three times, forcing the game into extra innings – Chapman admitted that Maddon “knows his stuff,” even if he did have to throw another 35 pitches before securing the victory.

“It was his decision, and my duty is to be prepared,” Chapman said. “I prepare myself to be strong so that my arm is healthy. Thank God I was able to do the job.

“I never told him about my opinion with the way he was using me. The way I feel as baseball players we are warriors. Our job is to be ready to do what we need to do on the field. They send me out there to pitch, I’m going to go out there and pitch.”

As for the Cubs’ lack of interest in resigning Chapman, it’s fair to assume Epstein concluded it would be financially advantageous to instead trade for a closer like Wade Davis from the Royals – parting with another expendable youngster, Jorge Soler. I’m just curious to see what happens after next season when Davis is primed to hit the free agent market. Will Epstein open the purse strings or does he search for another short-term fix?

During the most recent Winter Meetings, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that the organization wouldn’t have pursued a reunion with Chapman if they felt he wasn’t physically sound. While Chapman has put most fears to rest about exhaustion following a clean bill of health after his passed physical, we likely won’t see Chappy used quite so frequently now that he’s back in the Bronx.

At one point last season, manager Joe Girardi was criticized for not sending Chapman back to the hill after a rain delay interrupted his outing. Though the Yankees would go on to lose that game, Girardi was justified in his approach – as he’s always been very cautious when it comes to putting undo pressure on his pitchers. Maybe it’s the ex-catcher in him – Girardi who made the most pitching changes in the Majors in 2016, will likely be even more careful with the Yankees’ 5-year/$86M investment.

At the end of the day, 9/10 Yankees fans are ecstatic that the back-end of the bullpen has been reinforced for the foreseeable future. And by Chapman getting a full-sized helping of what it’s like to compete on baseball’s biggest stage, it led him back to the Yankees. “I want to do my best to bring another one (championship) to the city.”

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