WASHINGTON — Earlier on Sunday, the Nationals were considered a top contender for New York Yankees’ all-world closer Aroldis Chapman. This was the word from MLB insider Keith Law:
While there’s nothing official as of 8:30 p.m., the Nats are reportedly on the outside looking in as the Yankees consider other options. The latest word from MLB insider Jon Heyman:
Heyman references the Cubs’ top prospect Gleyber Torres, who was scratched from his high-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans game on Sunday. He is thought to the be the centerpiece of this deal, despite his young age (19) and relative distance from contributing at the Major League level.
The Nats have been linked to Chapman for weeks, a bandwagon that only got larger after Sunday’s meltdown from closer Jonathan Papelbon. In fairness, his four runs surrendered were the first earned runs given up this month, and led to his first blown save since May 3.
But in a winnable game, and a winnable series against the San Diego Padres, frustrations are running high internally.
“I don’t like to make excuses, but I don’t like to use my closer three days in a row. And this was three days in a row for Pap’,” Nats manager Dusty Baker said. “But we didn’t have a choice. The ball wasn’t coming out today the way it had been since he came back from the injury.”
This was the second time this season in which Papelbon was used in three consecutive days, but the first time since returning from a stint on the disabled list. Papelbon bristled at any suggestion of fatigue after the game.
“No, I was not tired,” he said. “It boiled down to location. Coming in there in a situation where we’ve got to preserve everything we can, every pitch matters in that situation.”
The Nationals were handed a 10-6 loss.
The good news is, Heyman suggests that the Nationals may still have time for a change of heart, as the Yankees’ ownership thus far refuses to allow a selloff:
Here’s a look at the statistical comparison between Chapman and Papelbon this season:
Papelbon: 33 games, 30 games finished, 19 saves, 32 hits, 9 home runs, 30 strikeouts, 3.62 ERA
Chapman: 31 games, 29 games finished, 20 saves, 20 hits, 2 home runs, 44 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA
Heyman also reports that the Nationals are interested in Chapman, but not utterly enamored with him at any price. If his services go to Chicago, the Nats could look for a deal with the White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals or others:
But none of those options will compare to the raw domination of Chapman over opposing hitters.
Chapman is the fastest recorded throwing pitcher in MLB history, with some radar guns lighting up as high as 105 or 106 MPH. For the 2016 season, he is averaging 100.5 MPH, which actually trails Mauricio Cabrera of the Atlanta Braves. But whereas Cabrera has thrown only 133 four-seam fastballs this season, Chapman has thrown 424.
Chapman finished the 2015 season with a clean 100 MPH average velocity.
One of the conditions that could be affecting trade negotiations is that the Yankees want both a legitimate prospect and salary relief. According to Heyman:
If the Nationals are still in the running for Chapman, they may need to move aggressively.