Cincinnati Reds: Implications for Aroldis Chapman's Return to the Bullpen
The move may not come as a surprise to fans at this point, as Chapman stated earlier this week that he would prefer to close.
The Reds appear to have yielded to the wishes of both Chapman and team manager Dusty Baker, but what does it mean for the rest of the team?
Mike Leake Will Be the Fifth Starter
One of the more obvious implications coming down the pipe is Mike Leake's inevitable return to the starting rotation.
Leake struggled in 2012; everyone is well aware of that by now. However, there's reason to believe that he will return to his 2011 form this season.
Leake is on the right side of the age curve, and at just 25 years old, the young right-hander still has a long time to go before he peaks.
With most players reaching their physical primes at around 27, it's fair to assume that Leake will continue to progress through the next couple years of his career.
Not only is Leake young, but he's still in the very early stages of his progression as a big-league pitcher.
When the Reds selected Leake with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, he skipped the minor leagues entirely and joined the team as a starter in 2010.
Had he gone through the minors, it's possible that Leake would just now be reaching the bigs, and fans should keep that in mind prior to the start of the regular season.
Jonathan Broxton Will be the Right-Handed Set-Up Man
The final obvious implication is that Jonathan Broxton will become the Reds' right-handed set-up man.
With Chapman returning to the closer's role, Broxton's only remaining option is to be bumped back to a set-up role.
Luckily for the Reds, Broxton has already made it clear that he'll pitch in whatever role the Reds place him in (per cincinnati.com)
Broxton did well with the Reds in the set-up role last season.
After coming over from the Royals midway through the 2012 season, Broxton made 25 appearances, going 22.1 innings with a 2.82 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and ratios of 8.1 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 6.67 K/BB and 8.1 H/9 (per Baseball-Reference.com).
Broxton also finished seven games for the Reds, recording four saves in six opportunities.
Look for Broxton to thrive again as the Reds' right-handed set-up option.
...However, His Contract Will Begin to Look Silly
Broxton can have the best season in the history of the set-up man's role, yet no matter what he does, his contract will look rather silly, seeing as he will not be closing out games.
The Reds opted to sign Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal during the offseason (per ESPN.com).
The presumption was that Broxton would then go on to become the team's new closer, facilitating Chapman's move to the starting rotation.
With the ever-increasing likelihood of Chapman returning to the closer's role, Broxton's contract begins to look ridiculous when you consider the fact that the Reds are now paying their two set-up men—Broxton and Sean Marshall—$37.5 million over the next three seasons (per Baseballprospectus.com).
For a team with relatively limited financial resources, this is an area of the team where they appear to have overspent by a wide margin.
The Reds Will Have the Best Bullpen... Again
Will Chapman's return to the bullpen have a positive or negative effect on the team?
The Reds had the best bullpen in baseball last season, anchored by one of, if not the most dominant closers in the game.
The team will return the same bullpen it worked with through much of the second half.
By season's end, the Reds' bullpen ranked first in ERA, saves and HR allowed. Additionally, the Reds' bullpen ranked in the top five in K/9, OBPa, SLGa, BAA and wins (per ESPN.com).
Leverage index is a statistic used to measure the amount of pressure surrounding baseball players in any given situation.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Reds bullpen did their best work in the clutch averaging the highest leverage index of all big-league bullpens (1.081).
Coupling one of the game's most dominant closers with the rest of the Reds' supporting cast in that bullpen should provide the team with a recipe for success in 2013.
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