Late on Wednesday, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal that the Yankees had signed the free agent elite closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. He has an opt out after the third year, a full not trade clause in the first three years and for some reason has a partial no trade clause in the last two years to all of the California teams.
Every since the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs before the trade deadline for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and three other prospects the Brian Cashman had been interested in signing him again. When Chapman played for the Yankees in the first half of the season after his 30-game suspension for domestic abuse the previous October, he proved that he could excel playing in New York as he had a 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 20 saves, 44 strikeouts, 20 hits allowed, only eight walks and an excellent 0.894 WHIP.
Including his time pitching with the Yankees and Cubs last season, Chapman had a great 1.55 ERA (1.42 WHIP), with 40.5 percent strikeouts and 8.1 percent walks in 58 innings pitched. According to River Ave Blues, he walked 11.7 percent of batters faced from the 2013 through the 2015 seasons, which means that based on his 8.1 percent walk rate last season his control is getting better and this trend could be here to stay.
The Cuban Missile has been an All-Star in four out of his six full seasons and his stats in his seven seasons overall are a 2.08 ERA in 383 games (377 innings) with 182 saves, 1.88 FIP, 19 homers allowed, 636 strikeouts, 201 hits allowed and a very good 0.92 WHIP. In 2012, when he was an All-Star and finished eighth in Cy Young voting, he had an outstanding 1.51 ERA in 68 games (71.2 innings) with 122 strikeouts, 23 walks allowed, a 1.55 FIP and a 0.809 WHIP, which is the lowest of his career.
Chapman’s five-year contract is the first five-year contract for a reliever since the Blue Jays gave B.J. Ryan a five-year deal that they regretted in 2005. Chapman, who has a fastball that can go up to 105 mph and a very good slider, is a much better pitcher than Ryan but the signing could be a little risky because Chapman would break down three or four years from now since he throws faster than everyone else. He is the only pitcher who can throw 105 mph in all of Major League Baseball.
He does have character issues as the Yankees were able to acquire him for much lower rated prospects based on his domestic abuse where he choked his girlfriend in a domestic incident. Also, in 2012, Chapman was arrested after being clocked going 93 mph on a suspended license. Hopefully he will not have another incident similar to his previous ones. The domestic violence incident is not defensible, but he has served his punishment and if the Yankees didn’t sign him another team would have.
Chapman was the best reliever available this offseason and Brian Cashman was intent on upgrading the bullpen. The bullpen that the Yankees have now, if their current pitchers perform like they did last year, is likely better overall than it was in the first half of last season when they had Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Chapman pitching the last three innings Now, in addition to Chapman and Betances, they also have Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren as proven commodities.
They also have a situational lefty, Tommy Layne, who is 32 and had a solid 3.38 ERA in 29 games (16 innings) after coming over from the Red Sox. Young relief pitchers who have come up through the system and spent some time in the majors last season who could be in the bullpen on Opening Day include Johnny Barbato, Nick Goody, Ben Heller, Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder.
Signing Chapman and not Kenley Jansen, who could have made sense because his stats are not that much different and Jansen will likely break down later than Chapman, meant that the Yankees will not lose a first round draft pick like they would have if they signed Jansen. The team is now trying to develop as many high draft picks as possible.
The signing of the 6’4″ Cuban lefty who will be 29 in February means that Dellin Betances will go back to pitching in the eighth inning. It is possible that Betances could be an effective closer but he has been one of the best set up men in the American League the last three seasons as he was an All-Star in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Having Chapman in the 9th inning means that Joe Girardi will be able to put Betances, who throws a high 90s fastball and a knuckle curve, into the game in the 7th or 8th inning depending on matchups and who else is available. In the 2014 season, when Betances was a set up man the whole season and a rookie, he had a 1.40 ERA in 70 games (90 innings) with a career-high 135 strikeouts, a career-low 24 walks, a 1.64 FIP and an outstanding 0.778 WHIP.
This past season, after Andrew Miller & Chapman had been traded, the 28-year-old struggled as the closer. He had an excellent 2.05 ERA on September 5 but at the end of the season his ERA climbed all the way up to 3.08. He allowed 10 runs in his final nine games, which means he might be better suited for the 7th and 8th innings right now. He also would make a lot of sense to replace Chapman if he opts out of his contract in three years.