On July 25, 2016 the Chicago Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman in a trade with the New York Yankees. The trade for Chapman proved to be the pinnacle moment for the Cubs’s quest to play in the 2016 World Series and ultimately become World Champions.
In my opinion Chapman was the the World Series MVP. The shutdown inning he pitched in the bottom of the nineth inning after giving up the game tying home run in the eighth inning was incredible when you consider the emotions of blowing the save that would have won the championship. Without the shutdown inning Zobrist would not have the opportunity to make the big game winning hit.
Now, a day after the Cubs have lost to Dodgers in the 2017 National League Championship Series, you can more clearly see the importance of that trade in July, 2016. Even though Chapman was a rental, the Cubs did not really pursue signing him, he was definitely the final piece of the puzzle of a surprising 2016 season.
The Chicago Cubs went in to 2016 having lost in the 2015 League Championship series with expectations of another division championship, but doubts of whether the team had matured enough to make a first appearance in the World Series in more than 100 years.
The biggest question was what impact Kris Bryant’s pending call up from the minors would have on the team. Everyone new Bryant was good, but nobody expected him to be named league MVP in his rookie season.
2016 was not expected to be the year for the Cub’s first World Series appearance, most thought 2017, this year, would be that year. Yet still, the Cubs exceeded expectations, and by July of 2016 Cubs management rightly recognized the timeline had accelerated and they had to seize the moment.
In other words, what we have learned this year is how the opportunities for championships rarely go as planned and the importance for seizing the moment when it arrives. To state what may be obvious, changes made between seasons impact the upcoming season’s performance, but mid-season changes make or break post-season performance.
How much more crushing would the defeat last night had been if Jed and Theo had not made that trade for Chapman? So, while last year I proclaimed Chapman my 2016 World Series MVP, in hindsight that award really belonged to the front office.