There’s no question that Aroldis Chapman is the closer for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds’ intention to convert him from reliever to starter never materialized over the past two years and doesn’t look like it ever will.
The rationale of signing reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21-million contract was not for him to be an eighth-inning setup man: it was for Broxton to be the Reds’ closer. Now that Broxton is serving as the Reds’ closer and doing a good job (five saves in five chances and no runs allowed in six innings), his temporary promotion shouldn’t be immediately stopped when Chapman returns.
Chapman is scheduled to start his minor league rehab this week. The horrific line drive he took to the face in Spring Training doesn’t appear to be holding him back from a full and speedy return. Chapman may not need much more than a week in the minors before he returns to the Reds.
As much as Chapman may want to reclaim his closer role right away and as much as the Reds want their pitching staff to return to full normalcy, rushing Chapman back into the closer job may do him more harm than good if he is greeted rudely by hitters upon his return.
Besides, Broxton has earned the right to remain closer for a while longer. Giving Broxton the chance to earn more saves will not only bolster Broxton’s confidence, it will also show the rest of baseball that the former closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Kansas City Royals has retained his ability to be a successful ninth-inning man.
And if the rest of baseball sees that Broxton is still a closer-quality reliever, his trade value may command something worthwhile for the Reds in return despite his hefty contract. It’s still too early for the Reds to start planning ahead for liquidating some of the team’s higher-priced players at this point, but the Reds team that finished April at 12-15 doesn’t quite look comparable to the team that advanced to the playoffs in three of the past four years.