The Cincinnati Reds have abandoned their plan to start Aroldis Chapman, and will be moving him back to the bullpen for the 2013 season. Early in the offseason, the Reds announced their plan to start Chapman this spring, and seemingly reinforced that decision by giving free agent closer Jonathan Broxton a three-year, $21 million deal.
Now, the Reds have backpedaled on their plan, and it looks like Mike Leake will fill the final spot in Cincinnati's rotation behind Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, and Bronson Arroyo. Chapman was an absolutely dynamic force at the end of games for the Reds last year, striking out 122 hitters in 71 2/3 innings, posting a 1.51 ERA, and saving 38 games for the NL Central champions. But with a fastball that averaged 97 mph, the Reds figured it would at least be prudent to explore the possibility of Chapman as a starting pitcher before falling into the trap of potentially wasting an electic arm like the Rangers did with Neftali Feliz. This spring, the 25-year old Chapman struck out four and walked four in eight innings, including two starts and a relief appearance.
Chapman stated in an interview with MLB.com this past weekend that he'd prefer to be the team's closer as opposed to a starter, and it appears that he'll be getting his wish. The Reds will now be paying Broxton $21 million over the next three years to serve as as setup man, along with paying Sean Marshall $16.5 million over the next three seasons to also serve in a middle relief role. Combine their two salaries with the oodles of money owed to Chapman plus his arbitration earnings, and the Reds bullpen is looking like it could be a money pit for the team over the next three years, not a good sign for the future for a small market club like Cincinnati.