The Reds already had a playoff caliber roster before acquiring Shin-Soo Choo this winter. They were also pretty well off with Aroldis Chapman as their closer. But instead of moving forward with the 2012 team that saw their campaign end in the NLDS, the club thought they would be better off to roll the dice and shake things up for 2013.
That is precisely why the Reds added Choo and are planning to plug him into center field -- a position he has played sparingly in his 8-year MLB career. And that is also why they are aiming to slide Chapman from the 'pen to the starting rotation. ESPN's Jim Bowden sees these decisions as the "biggest risks of the offseason".
Here's how the former Reds general manager backed up his claim:
Chapman whiffed 122 batters in 71 2/3 innings last year, and was arguably the NL's second-best closer after Craig Kimbrel. Nonetheless, Cincy has always wanted to use him as a starter, and this offseason GM Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price decided to make the move. It’s easy to understand why, in hopes that Chapman can make the same transition that Chris Sale did for the Chicago White Sox and give the Reds a potent top of the rotation with Johnny Cueto, Chapman and Mat Latos. However, Chapman is a much different pitcher than Sale: He doesn’t have the same command and control of the breaking ball and changeup, and there is a question how his fastball will look the second and third time through the lineup.
There is also health risk in making a decision like this, especially considering the shoulder soreness that Chapman has experienced on and off since he signed with the Reds. There is a real possibility that this decision could lead him to the disabled list, the way it did for Neftali Feliz, or he could all of a sudden lose his dominance the way Daniel Bard did when he moved to the rotation.Hey, the greater the risks, the greater the reward, right? It will be interesting to see if Cincy's gamble pays off.
Manager Dusty Baker prefers to leave Chapman in the bullpen and I have a hunch he will end up back there. In the meantime, Jocketty signed Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal, but he was smart not to make any guarantees as to who would be closer, leaving the door open for Chapman's return to that role. I think it's too risky to move Chapman out of a role where he is so dominant with the team so close to the World Series.
Speaking of risk, the Reds also seem intent on moving the recently acquired Choo to center. Baker has wanted a true leadoff hitter since coming to Cincy, and now he has one. No doubt this deal will significantly help the Reds' lineup and set the table for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce; however, Choo is going to be out of his element in center.
Scouts who watch him every day wonder if he will give up all the offensive gains in the field. He moves side to side extremely well and can go back on the ball adequately. However, he doesn’t come in on the ball very well and he isn't fast enough to really run down balls deep in the gaps. It's possible the Reds will end up using Bruce in center, but he will be stretched there as well. The Reds had better hope their pitchers are striking out lots of hitters, which would make their defense less of a concern.
You can see who else Bowden thinks is taking risks this winter by going here (ESPN Insider).