Now it seems to be a pretty foregone conclusion that Aroldis Chapman will be the team's fifth starter. This decision carries major implications both for the Cincinnati Reds as a team and for Aroldis Chapman's future as a pitcher.
The first concern regarding Chapman's move to the starting rotation is it's effect on the Reds' bullpen.
The team had arguably the most dominant bullpen in the Majors in 2012. Reds' relievers finished with the best team ERA in baseball (2.65) while finishing first in saves (56), third in BAA (.219), third in OPSa (.639) and second in K/9 (9.90).
Removing Chapman from this bullpen and replacing him with an inferior Jonathan Broxton dilutes the effectiveness of the bullpen. Chapman didn't record his first save until mid-May and he still managed to record two more saves than Jonathan Broxton has in any season of his career.
I'm a supporter of the move to sign Broxton. However, that support only comes from the organization's creation of a hole in the bullpen with their intentions on moving Chapman. If Chapman doesn't pan out in the starting rotation then the Reds will move him back to the bullpen and the front office will have just doled out about $7 million-per-year for a set-up man.
The impact this has on Chapman's career could be monumental.
Though there are instances of pitchers moving to and from the bullpen and starting rotation (i.e. John Smoltz) however, there are far more examples of relievers who had their arms ruined when they changed roles.
Neftali Feliz was shifted to the Texas Rangers' starting rotation this year when the team brought in Joe Nathan. Feliz pitched until May before he tore his UCL and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.
If you need an example closer to home there's two that spring to mind.
Danny Graves saved 30 games in three consecutive seasons between 2000 and 2002. The Reds moved him to the starting rotation in 2003 and it was a disaster. In 30 games (26 starts), Graves pitched 169 innings allowing a 5.33 ERA and 1.45 WHIP with just 60 strikeouts to his credit.
Graves did save 41 games the following season with Cincinnati but he was never the same pitcher. Following his 2003 debacle, Graves never pitched over 68.1 innings in a season and averaged a 4.98 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and a whopping 11.9 H/9 for the remainder of his career.
Following the 2006 season, Danny Graves was out of Major League Baseball.
Another example comes in the form of Chicago White Sox' starter Chris Sale. Although he didn't actually ruin his arm, it's clear that he struggled with his move to the rotation.
Sale pitched wonderfully in the first half of 2012 placing himself in early Cy Young consideration. However, the second half of the season proved disastrous for the young lefty.
After pitching to a 10-2 record, with a 2.19 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 98 strikeouts to 25 walks in 102.2 innings pitched for the first half of 2012, Sale followed that up in the second half with a 4.03 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and 94 strikeouts to 26 walks in 89.1 innings pitched.
There is a possibility that Chapman moves to the starting rotation and performs well. If he does, then I'll be happy to admit my being wrong. However, the fact of the matter is that there are far many more examples of this transition not working out than there are of it working.
The Reds have one of the most dominant closers in Major League Baseball and the idea of possibly destroying his arm in order to improve an already strong starting rotation seems risky and redundant.