The Cubs added the hardest-throwing reliever in history to the back end of their bullpen Monday, completing a 4-for-1 trade with the Yankees for All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman in a deal they believe adds the final key piece for a championship team.
The Cubs’ top-ranked prospect, 19-year-old shortstop Gleyber Torres, is the centerpiece of the package going to New York, which also sends right-hander Adam Warren back to the Yankees, along with minor-leaguers Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford, both outfielders.
Warren was acquired in December for second baseman Starlin Castro.
The deal became official only after the Cubs signed off following a phone conversation with Chapman that included chairman Tom Ricketts and baseball executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, involving Chapman’s domestic violence history, according to a statement released by the Cubs.
“We gave that serious, thoughtful, careful consideration over an extended period of time,” Epstein said. “And we take the issue of character very seriously and continue to. Obviously, we take the issue of domestic violence very seriously. So it was our responsibility to look into this thoroughly and look at all the facts.
“And we understand there will be a lot of different perspectives on this, a lot of strong feelings on this, and that people are going to feel differently about it. We understand that and we respect it.”
In the end, after listening to what Chapman had to say and measuring it against his behavior since the suspension, the Cubs made the baseball decision they felt the opportunity demanded.
“You can’t take for granted the position that we’re in right now,” said Epstein, whose club has the best record in baseball as it opens a four-game stretch against the White Sox.
“The goal is to win three postseason series,” he added, noting the difference in low-scoring postseason games a shut-down corps at the back end of the bullpen makes.
“This was a show of faith in our big-league team,” he said. “It was an aggressive move. It was tough to give up what we gave up. But if not now, when? This was the appropriate move given where we are and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Contrary to some reports, extension talks were not part of the delay in finalizing the deal, although the idea has been discussed internally. Chapman rejected the Yankees’ offer to extend his contract beyond this season.
“I’m sure that’ll be a conversation for another day,” Epstein said, “as both sides get to know each other better.”
Chapman, whose fastball reached 105 mph more than once in the past week, is a four-time All-Star and expected to be by far the top bullpen arm acquired during the deadline trading period.
“I’m glad no one else got him,” said All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout facing Chapman as a rookie last year.
Potential National League playoff opponents San Francisco and, in particular, Washington, also pursued Chapman — with the Nationals still active in talks into Monday morning, according to major league sources.
Chapman immediately replaces Hector Rondon as the Cubs’ closer, significantly lengthening the Cubs’ lineup of power setup men, including Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and recently acquired lefty Mike Montgomery.
He also carries the off-the-field baggage of a domestic abuse allegation that cost him a 30-game suspension this year under MLB’s new domestic violence policy, an issue Cubs brass long ago reconciled against his potential contribution to a World Series winner.
Chapman, 28, has a 2.01 ERA and converted 20 of 22 save chances for the Yankees.
Torres, who ranks among the top 50 on every major prospect list, is the Cubs’ top-ranked prospect and has been among the youngest players in his league at each minor-league stop since signing as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela for $1.6 million three years ago.
He’s No. 27 on Baseball America’s midseason top-100 list.
Torres was hitting .275 with nine home runs at at the time he was pulled from Sunday’s lineup at advanced-A Myrtle Beach as talked heated up.
The Cubs have the luxury of depth at that position, with two starting-caliber shortstops under age 24 on the big-league roster in Addison Russell (22) and Javy Baez (23).
Warren had a 5.91 ERA in 29 games, all but one in relief, falling out of favor with manager Joe Maddon and his staff. He was optioned to AAA Iowa Sunday when the Cubs’ activated Joe Nathan from the DL after Nathan’s lengthy rehab from a second Tommy John surgery.
Nathan, who pitched a scoreless inning in Sunday’s Cubs debut, and Chapman have a combined 10 All-Star appearances as closers.