MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Chapman gives Yankees lockdown bullpen trio

Trade for relief ace allows NY to follow in KC's path

Chapman gives Yankees lockdown bullpen trio

Building from the back of the bullpen is now the way to go. Look what it did for the Kansas City Royals.

The New York Yankees may now be on this course, with the acquisition of relief ace Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees now have a potentially dominant trio at the back of the bullpen in Chapman, their 2015 closer Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, another flame-thrower.

The Yankees traded four prospects -- two right-handed pitchers and two infielders -- to the Cincinnati Reds for Chapman. The Reds are rebuilding and had made Chapman available as one of their primary tradable assets.

He is, after all, the hardest thrower in the game. On Sept. 24, 2010, against the San Diego Padres, the left-hander threw a pitch that was clocked at 105.1 mph, the fastest recorded pitch in the history of baseball.

Chapman is still young. He will turn 28 in February. He has a 2.17 career ERA and is coming off one of his best seasons: a 1.63 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings. His strikeout-per-nine-innings rate of 15.74 led all Major League relievers. He converted 33 of 36 save opportunities. He has been an All-Star in each of the past four seasons.

The acquisition of Chapman also opens up the option of trading Miller. The Yankees have reportedly been listening to trade offers for him.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has said his priority is to upgrade the starting rotation, particularly since the trade of Adam Warren to the Cubs for infielder Starlin Castro. Miller's first season as a full-time closer was a resounding success. He had a 2.04 ERA and converted 36 of 38 save opportunities in 2015.

Yankees Hot Stove Tracker

Miller may be a more tradable commodity than Chapman at this point. The Reds were close to trading Chapman to the Dodgers when allegations surfaced of domestic violence. The Dodgers subsequently backed away from the deal. It is possible that Chapman could face discipline from Major League Baseball in connection with the allegations.

But with the trade for Chapman, the Yankees have given themselves either a superb late-innings trio or the possibility of trading a highly successful reliever for help in the rotation.

The notion of building a pitching staff from the back of the bullpen was not widely seen as a viable option until the Royals made it their calling card. In 2014, they won the American League pennant behind the bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland.

In 2015, the Royals lost Holland to elbow surgery but didn't miss a beat, winning the World Series behind the late-innings combination of Herrera, Luke Hochevar, Ryan Madson and Davis as closer.

The Royals successfully shortened games in which they held a lead. And even when the Royals were trailing, their relievers often stopped the opposition long enough to set up a come-from-behind win. It was a stunningly successful pattern, and it deserved to be repeated. The Yankees, with the acquisition of Chapman, have taken a major step in that direction. Whether they stay with their trio of dominant relievers or use one of them in a deal for rotation help, the Chapman trade underscores the growing emphasis on lockdown late-inning relief. The Yankees, already strong in that area, have given themselves more depth and more flexibility. The trade works, either way.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.