MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Does Aroldis spell relief in Cubs' quest?

No stranger to huge deals, Cubs' president trades away No. 1 prospect Torres

Does Aroldis spell relief in Cubs' quest?

You knew this was coming, right?

The Cubs have acquired left-hander Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees.

It's the kind of move the Cubs have been putting themselves in position to make for a couple years. They've gotten themselves in a strong position, and now they're pushing their chips to the middle of the table.

Team president Theo Epstein pretty much turned the only weakness on his team into one more strength in one stroke. It was a move that 14 other National League teams must have dreaded, but known was probably coming.

While other clubs coveted the Cuban closer, none of them could match Chicago's combination of motivation and potential trade pieces. This is a deal the Cubs couldn't let fall apart and risk having Chapman wind up with the Nationals or another team they will likely face in October.

So a deal built around 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Gleyber Torres -- and also includes Chicago's No. 5 prospect Billy McKinney, right-hander Adam Warren, and Minor Leaguer Rashad Crawford -- is where this ended up. Torres, who MLB Pipeline has ranked as Chicago's No. 1 prospect, seems a high price to pay, even for a closer who is the hardest thrower in the Majors, but that simply speaks to Epstein's motivation right now.

Callis on top prospect Torres

Trading Chapman, who is on the verge of his first taste of free agency since he signed with the Reds in 2010, speaks only to the Yankees' outlook this season. They are making the Cubs pay highly with Torres, a skilled two-way shortstop who could wind up as Derek Jeter's long-term replacement in the Bronx.

When Chicago rolled to the NL Championship Series a year ago, it seemed vulnerable in the back of the rotation and in bullpen depth. The addition of John Lackey and the continued development of Kyle Hendricks has answered the first issue, but the bullpen has remained a work in progress, joined recently by lefty Mike Montgomery and 41-year-old Joe Nathan.

With Hector Rondon as the closer and Pedro Strop the primary setup man, Joe Maddon's bullpen ranks seventh in the NL with a 3.73 ERA. It has contributed to the Cubs' 12-15 record in one-run games.

Rondon seals 18th save

Rondon, a success story who overcame Tommy John surgery to grow up on the same timeline as Epstein's team, nailed down 22 consecutive save chances between the end of the 2015 regular season and the start of '16, but he has blown four of his past 11 chances. Rondon said he'll gladly slip into a setup role if Chicago brings in a proven closer.

The notable subplot to all of this is how Chapman will fit into the Cubs' clubhouse. While they have their share of hard-nosed players and crusty characters, they've been a warm and fuzzy story in this era of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. They have a high-character clubhouse with quality veterans such as David Ross and Ben Zobrist guiding conscientious young players such as Addison Russell and Javier Baez.

Chapman brings a different narrative into the mix, as he began the season serving a 30-game suspension for violating the league's domestic violence policy following an offseason incident in which he fired a gun after a dispute with his girlfriend. That incident is why the Yankees were able to give up a lot less to get him in a December trade with the Reds than what they are getting for him now. And it remains enough of an issue that Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts addressed the incident in a statement after the announcement of the trade.

"Obviously, we are aware of the circumstances surrounding Aroldis Chapman's suspension earlier this season. We are also aware that he cooperated fully with the league investigation and takes responsibility for his actions.

"Today, prior to completing the trade, Theo, Jed and I spoke with Aroldis. I shared with him the high expectations we set for our players and staff both on and off the field. Aroldis indicated he is comfortable with meeting those expectations.

"Finally, my family, this team and Major League Baseball take the issue of domestic violence very seriously and support efforts to reduce domestic violence through education, awareness and intervention."

As Ricketts noted, Chapman has stayed out of trouble, and he has fanned 44 batters and walked only eight in 31 1/3 innings with New York while converting 20 of 21 save chances. Yes, there is a risk in giving up your No. 1 prospect to get him, but the potential reward -- the knowledge that you have one of the best pitchers possible to get the last out in the seventh game of the World Series -- makes this trade a moment Epstein had to seize.

Having put together the Red Sox team that ended their legendary World Series drought, Epstein understands the angst of Chicago baseball fans. He wasn't afraid to trade iconic shortstop Nomar Garciaparra when he took over Boston. Of course Epstein is bold enough to deal for a dominator with some baggage.

There has been times this year when the Cubs seemed unbeatable, though in recent weeks, we've seen moments where some potential holes were exposed. The depth of the bullpen was arguably one of those weaknesses, and Epstein made sure it wasn't any longer with one bold move. He paid a big price, but with that 108-year World Series drought looming over everything, it was a trade he had to make.

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