Will Chapman-Miller-Betances Trio Really Mask Yankees' Other Weaknesses?

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Will Chapman-Miller-Betances Trio Really Mask Yankees' Other Weaknesses?
Billy Hurst/Associated Press

For most of the last two years, the New York Yankees specialized in acquisitions that were anything but flashy. Many were useful and some were surprisingly good, but none of them screamed, "Look at us!"

Trading for Aroldis Chapman did. That's a Yankee move.

He's the type of player you expect them to get, and the over-the-top bullpen of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances is exactly what you expect the Yankees to assemble. Hey, did you hear that they had three of the four highest strikeout rates in baseball in 2015?

Did you hear Chapman throws harder than anyone?

Of course you did. You heard no one else has an endgame like the Yankees do now. You heard the Yankees might turn nine-inning games into six-inning games.

Here's what you also should have heard: The bullpen wasn't the problem the Yankees needed to fix.

After the Yankees acquired Chapman from the Cincinnati Reds on Dec. 28, WFAN's Sweeny Murti tweeted the following:

In other words, the Yankees were already really good at closing out games, with guys like Justin Wilson and Adam Warren in front of Miller and Betances. In fact, they were 51-23 in games in which Wilson pitched.

They don't have Wilson anymore, as they traded him to the Detroit Tigers for two minor league pitchers. They don't have Warren anymore after trading him to the Chicago Cubs for second baseman Starlin Castro.

So if you want to say Chapman gives the Yankees a deeper bullpen, that's not exactly true.

That's not to minimize how good Chapman is. It's not even to say the Yankees made a mistake in agreeing to the cut-rate deal the Reds offered because of Chapman's much-publicized domestic-violence issues.

While it's still not clear how long a suspension Chapman will face, if any, it's abundantly clear he would have cost a team big prospects if the off-field issues didn't exist.

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
While Chapman led baseball with 15.74 strikeouts per nine innings, Andrew Miller was second with 14.59.

Chapman is very good, and he's going to be very exciting to watch. And he gives the Yankees some of what the Kansas City Royals had when they went to the last two World Series. Deep bullpens with guys who miss bats are in vogue now, and no team has three guys who miss bats like the Yankee trio does.

In fact, pitchers like that are seen to have so much value that some rival scouts still think of the Chapman acquisition as one that will set up the Yankees to trade Miller later this winter or some time next summer.

"[Yankees general manager Brian] Cashman is going to be holding the joker that everyone else will want," one scout said.

Cashman says his intent is to keep Chapman, Miller and Betances, and I tend to believe he will. He seems to believe the big bullpen will give him a team that can end the Yankees' three-year drought without a postseason win.

I'm not so sure.

The Yankees could win if the starting rotation can hold up. Having Chapman might allow manager Joe Girardi to avoid wearing out Miller and Betances, but only if the starters hold up at least as well as they did last summer. The Yankees were 21st in starters innings in 2015, and that was with CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Masahiro Tanaka holding up for a combined 107 starts (and with Warren starting 17 times).

There's reason for concern with every one of those starters for 2016, and the main hope for improvement is that 21-year-old Luis Severino can pitch as well in his first full season as he did in his 11-start rookie cameo.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press
The Yankees have a flashy bullpen, but will soon-to-be 41-year-old Alex Rodriguez do enough for their offense?

But let's say the rotation holds up. Let's say Chapman, Miller and Betances make the Yankees so invincible when they get a lead after six innings that they don't even lose the three games they lost that way last year.

Fine, but tell me Alex Rodriguez is going to provide what he did in 2015, now that he's going to start a season at 40 and finish it at 41. For all Cashman's efforts to make the Yankee roster younger, he's still counting on a lineup in which all the key guys are on the wrong side of 30.

His unflashy additions have often worked out, some (Didi Gregorius) better than others (Chase Headley, Stephen Drew). Perhaps the unflashy moves from this winter (Castro, outfielder Aaron Hicks) will prove to be good ones.

If not, Chapman will be for the Yankees just what he was for the Reds: fun to watch, but home in October.

 

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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