The GM meetings in Florida are over. Note:

  • The San Diego Padres traded their shut-down closer, Craig Kimbrel, to the Boston Red Sox for four prospects.

These two facts are related, perhaps tightly. It was reported by many that the Red Sox were an aggressive suitor for Chapman. Given the source of the infamous “by this weekend” rumors (Peter Gammons) it wouldn’t be a surprise his information came from the Red Sox organization. Boston was a great match for the Reds since they have a deep system of position player prospects. They also have a new GM with a track record of overpaying for veteran ninth-inning security (ask Joe Nathan). If ever there was a situation where the Reds could hope for a blockbuster package for Chapman, that was it.

To be sure, Kimbrel and Chapman were different commodities because of their contracts. Kimbrel has two guaranteed years remaining, plus a team option third year at $13 million. Chapman, on the other hand, will be a free agent at the end of 2016.

The Reds might have lost out because the Red Sox had a substantial preference for a long-term arrangement. But it still comes down to the competing offers. Chapman would have come cheaper than Kimbrel, who cost a lot, and the Red Sox could have used the year to develop or acquire another arm to close. Multi-year contracts are a huge risk with hard-throwing pitchers (again, ask Joe Nathan). Despite the contract length differences, the Reds had a persuasive case to make.

Here’s the rub. How much less were the Reds asking for Chapman?

At last July’s trade deadline, reports indicated the Reds expected a huge return – one elite plus two “better than average” prospects for Chapman. If they were still asking for that kind of package, it’s no surprise they lost out to the Padres. Despite how unreasonable that seems, no close follower of the Reds would be shocked to learn it. The Reds front office has overvalued Chapman’s role for years. They have judged his value as closer to be greater than as an ace starting pitcher. From that standpoint, you can see why they would expect a trade return equal to or better than a top-of-rotation starter.

Compounding that mistaken valuation, other closers – Mark Melancon (PIT), Jonathan Papelbon (WAS), Andrew Miller (NYY), Brad Boxberger (TBR) and Ken Giles (PHI) – may be on the market. With the expanding legion of stats-minded decision-makers in baseball’s front offices, how many organizations are still willing to sacrifice major assets for 70 innings of relief pitching, no matter how established and electrifying?

After the Kimbrel trade, Dick Williams, the new GM for the Reds didn’t inspire a lot of confidence or negotiating strength. He gave this We Feels statement to Mark Sheldon:

“We didn’t feel like we missed out on a deal with them (Red Sox). There will be other teams that are interested in Chapman. I don’t control who is out there or who will be interested. We feel that there are other offers. We feel that he’s the best closer out there, so [we] hope good stuff can happen.”

The first sentence is disingenuous. No one believes that Boston wasn’t a potential trade partner for Chapman. That lack of candor is no way to build trust and support among the fans. The rest of Williams’ statement – in future tense – implies other teams haven’t yet shown an interest in Chapman. That’s also hard to believe. Wouldn’t it strengthen the Reds’ hand to create the impression there IS (not will be) demand for Chapman? The claims that he doesn’t “control who is out there” and “we feel that there are other offers” are loose and sounds like an excuse for failure. Again, it smacks of weakness.

How about this instead:

“We were working on a promising deal with Boston, but in the end they opted for three years of team control instead of one. But the Red Sox are just one team. Others are rightly interested in Chapman because he’s the best closer out there and can make a huge difference for a contending team. The market for him remains strong.” 

Public statements like the one from Dick Williams above do confirm the Reds’ plan to trade Aroldis Chapman. In fact, they apparently have prioritized it to the front of their offseason agenda. That’s a step in the right direction.

While the GM meetings may be over, the fact is the Reds could make a deal to trade Chapman at any moment. Yes, they missed out on Boston, there’s one less team out there shopping. If you’re looking for a silver lining, the Red Sox-Padres deal did set a high price in the elite closer market. And that market now goes through Joe Nuxhall Way.

Whatever team acquires Chapman will make a qualifying offer to him at the end of 2016. So they will receive a compensatory draft pick when Chapman declines the QO to enter free agency. That means the Reds are offering Chapman and a good draft pick. It’s still reasonable to expect two strong prospects in return – essentially one for Chapman’s unmatched left arm and one for the pick.