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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Aroldis Chapman deal could be just the start for Yankees

New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman delivers

New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, July 23, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Aroldis Chapman was destined to be the first step of the Yankees’ reboot long before Hal Steinbrenner signed off on trading him Monday to the Cubs. Brian Cashman said as much, describing him as a “distressed asset,” like a fixer-upper ready to be flipped.

Chapman, headed for free agency at season’s end, was ripe to be moved, with a handful of teams desperate for an elite closer the Yankees no longer had any use for — and never really needed. When Cashman bought low on Chapman in December, after the Dodgers bailed on the Reds, he saw this moment coming.

The scenario played out better than the GM could have imagined, as his buddy Theo Epstein, hellbent on busting another curse, this time with the title-starved Cubs, wound up being the one to come calling. The Yankees turned Chapman into a pair of top prospects another “lottery ticket” minor-leaguer with potential, and also got Adam Warren back.

An impressive haul, to say the least. And there’s no reason to stop now. If that’s the market rate for a two-month rental of Chapman, what about Andrew Miller? Statistically, Miller is better — and he’s also under team control for two more years at $18 million.

Before Monday’s deal, we were against trading Miller, figuring that he’d be a necessary part of the Yankees’ contending hopes beyond this season. But now that Chapman is off the table, and seeing what he commanded from the Cubs, Miller’s value should skyrocket. Not only did the Nationals whiff on Chapman, he’s now closing for their fiercest rival outside the NL East. That’s got to make the Nats think twice about possibly including Lucas Giolito in a Miller swap. And we’re still a week away from next Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

“It’s a very volatile time,” Cashman said. “This one move doesn’t necessarily create a domino effect. If there’s a good acquisition [offer] my owner is going to be made aware of it.”

Cashman labeled the Chapman trade “an easy call and the right call” but emphasized Hal Steinbrenner’s prominent role in green-lighting the proposal, a key thing to remember going forward. The Yankees technically haven’t been midseason “sellers” since trading Rickey Henderson to the A’s in 1989 and this next generation Steinbrenner is very reluctant to break that streak.

Cashman gave us the sense he had to do some arm-twisting with Hal on Chapman, so the GM made also sure to use the correct spin during Monday’s conference call. Getting Warren to re-stock the bullpen was pivotal in helping to persuade Steinbrenner that he wasn’t necessarily surrendering, despite projecting the Yankees, at 50-48, to have only a 7.9 percent chance of making the playoffs.

“This isn’t a white flag,” Cashman said. “This is a re-arrangement.”

He’s not wrong. The Yankees still have Miller and Dellin Betances, so removing Chapman’s triple-digit fastball shouldn’t be fatal to anything but the “No Runs DMC” T-shirt sales. The trade certainly didn’t make them better for the short term, however, so what’s the point of being overly concerned with the next two months?

After the endless buy-sell debate, and Steinbrenner sweating the reaction of the fan base, finally trading Chapman is like ripping off the band-aid. Cashman said it took about 10 days to get the deal to the finish line, but now it’s over. Just like that — he’s gone. And from here, it shouldn’t feel so difficult to auction off a few more valuable pieces, like Miller or Carlos Beltran or another deal that isn’t on Cashman’s radar screen just yet. At these prices, the Yankees would be foolish not to.

“In terms of evaluating whether anyone else on this 25-man roster becomes a traded player, it’s all relative to the package you’re receiving and how you can cushion the blow and continue to compete,” Cashman said. “We’ll just continue on a case by case basis to weigh it.”

Cashman doesn’t sound like a GM who’s through dealing, as long as he can get Steinbrenner’s approval to do so. To that end, here’s some advice. Don’t call it a sell-off. Just more re-arranging.


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