The KC Royals did a lot of favors for a lot of teams this season — they lost to their opponents 106 times — but one of the biggest they did was for one of the games' better relievers. The gift they gave Aroldis Chapman has the lefty bullpen weapon headed for the World Series.
Looking to shore up its weak bullpen, and in a move few Hot Stove observers saw coming when the free agent market opened, Kansas City signed free agent Chapman to a one-year deal in January. The transaction was transparently temporary, one clearly designed to bring aboard a trade chip to help out for a while before being flipped to a contender when the time was right and the market ripe.
He did the job the Royals needed him to do. Predictably, and although manager Matt Quatraro gave him an occasional save opportunity, Chapman didn't supplant Scott Barlow as closer, but he became one of the rookie manager's more reliable relievers. His ERA was a nifty 2.45, and he was 4-2 with a couple of saves and 53 strikeouts in 29.1 innings (16.26 K/9) at the end of June.
And that's when the Royals did him the huge favor.
Kansas City and Texas swing a big summer trade
June 30 was the day, and the Rangers their trade partner, when the Royals made the Chapman flip everyone knew was coming. In a trade Kings of Kauffman's Jacob Milham recently gave an A+, they sent Chapman to Texas for pitcher Cole Ragans, our choice for KC Pitcher of the Year, and outfield prospect Roni Cabrera.
As he hadn't with Barlow in Kansas City, Chapman didn't wrest the Texas closer's job away from anyone, but he certainly contributed to the Rangers' successful quest for the American League pennant they clinched Monday night in Houston by drubbing the Astros 11-4. The 14-season big league veteran went 2-2, 3.72, saved four games, and fanned 50 in the 29 innings he pitched for Texas.
He's also pitched regularly in the MLB playoffs. Chapman threw a scoreless eighth inning in Texas' 4-0 victory over Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series, didn't surrender a run in the 1.2 frames he worked as the Rangers swept Baltimore in the ALDS, and was charged with only a run in the four appearances he made in the ALCS.
Chapman is a lock to see action in this year's World Series, which starts Friday. For that, he can thank the Royals for dealing him to Texas.