Yankees: How Brian Cashman’s brilliance framed the franchise’s resurgence

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NEW YORK, NY – MAY 09: Aroldis Chapman #54 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on May 9, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

On December 28th, 2015, the Cincinnati Reds traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees for four minor league prospects. Chapman at the time was one year away from free agency and had a cloud of negativity surrounding his persona due to reports of domestic violence charges. Brian Cashman and Co. took a chance on Chapman, not only because of the unknown length of his inevitable suspension but because of the backlash from the Yankee fan-base regarding Chapman’s reputation.

Nevertheless, Brian Cashman knew he had an opportunity to steal arguably the best closer in baseball for a fraction of his actual worth. In the days leading up to the 2016 Trade Deadline, the Yankees were middling around .500. Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner folded, giving his blessing to Cashman to deal Chapman for the right return.

On July 25th, the Yankees dealt Chapman to the Chicago Cubs for uber-shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, outfield prospects Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford, and former Yankee Adam Warren. Warren had been traded to the Cubs in December of 2015 in exchange for second basemen Starlin Castro and really struggled during his brief stint with them in 2016 which made him a throw-in piece in the deal. Chapman helped the Cubs win the 2016 World Series, their first World Series title in over a century.

The following offseason, the Yankees signed Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. For periods of time during both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Chapman struggled with command and velocity issues but has still maintained his dominance due to an increased usage of his slider. Through this whole process, Cashman turned four average prospects into Aroldis Chapman. He then turned a three-month rental of Chapman into Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, and two prospects.

Torres’ presence in the Yankees lineup over the last year has been priceless, while Adam Warren pitched well in a middle-relief role until being traded in July of 2018. One of the prospects acquired for Chapman, Billy McKinney, was part of the package sent to Toronto for starter J.A. Happ in July of 2018. Cashman’s brilliance in turning such a large profit helped set the Yankees up for their recent resurgence as a force to be reckoned with.