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.
The Yankees, who beat the Baltimore Orioles 13-5 on Saturday afternoon, are now a season-high six games above .500. They have now won four games in a row, including the first two games of the series against the Orioles, and are now only 2.5 games behind Baltimore for the second wild card spot.
In their previous two games the Yankees were an impressive 9-14 with runners in scoring position, and in Saturday’s win the team was 7-17 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees had a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning and then they would score seven runs in the next two innings to put the game away. Gary Sanchez made history yet again as he hit a homer that bounced off of the right-center field wall in the bottom of the fourth for his 11th homer to give the Bronx Bombers a 5-2 lead. Sanchez went 1-3 with two walks, and he now has an outstanding slash line .400/.467/.900 with 11 homers and 21 RBI in 21 games this season.
Sanchez has played better than anyone could have expected so far and has been able to adjust well to pitches during games. He appeared in two games last season, which gives him 11 homers in 23 career games. Sanchez, who is 23 years old, has reached 11 homers faster than anyone else in major league history. His 11 homers in August are also the most in one month by a rookie since Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun hit 11 in 2007, and are the most by an American League rookie since Oakland’s Mark McGwire hit 15 in May of 1987.
Sanchez is a big factor in the Yankees being very much in contention for a playoff spot. Baseball prospectus gives the Yankees a 9.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, but the number is increasing with every win. That percentage is also relatively high because the Orioles, who currently have the second wild card spot, are given a 28.6 percent chance of getting to the playoffs.
In Sanchez’s last seven days (six games), he has 10 hits in 22 at-bats (.455) with two doubles, five homers, seven runs scored and nine RBI. He could be on his way to winning his second American League Player of the Week award. Sanchez has also helped the Yankees behind the plate since being called up on August 3 since the pitchers have praised how he calls a game and his rocket of an arm has helped him throw out six of nine potential base stealers.
Chris Davis’s homer to center was Baltimore’s league leading 200th home run of the season but that would quickly be canceled out by Starlin Castro’s RBI single that scored Mark Teixeira to tie the game. Then, to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead in the third, there was a rarely seen double steal of home. After about a two-minute review, Didi Gregorius was ruled safe after a great slide where he got his back hand on home plate before the tag. That was his sixth steal, which is a career-high.
Brian McCann’s double to left in the third that scored Castro was his 50th RBI of his season. He is in third place on the team after Gregorius (58) and Castro (60).
Mark Trumbo and Davis both hit solo homers in the fifth off of Yankees starter Chad Green. Baltimore’s 202nd homer forced manager Joe Girardi to bring in relief pitcher Tommy Layne with two outs in the fifth. Layne would end up earning his first win with the Yankees.
In the bottom of the fifth, Castro and Aaron Hicks both smashed two-run homers to make the score 9-4. Hicks has really improved at the plate since he has been playing everyday in the outfield since the beginning of the month as he has a .310 average in August (22-71) with four homers, eight runs scored and nine RBI.
He has really been locked in during the last five games as he has a .467 average (7-15) with a homer, two runs scored and three RBI. This month is proving that Hicks could be a part of the team’s future. After struggling in the first four months with inconsistent playing time, consistency and work with Marcus Thames has helped him increase his average from the .185 it was at the beginning of the month to .218.
The Yankees scored three more runs in the sixth inning. McCann had his second RBI, Hicks had his third RBI on a single that scored Castro and then McCann would score the team’s 12th run on an infield single by Brett Gardner. Friday and Saturday’s games stood out in the memorable history of the Yankees.
On Friday, the Yankees scored 14 runs, had 18 hits and hit three homers and on Saturday, the Yankees scored 13 runs, had 18 hits and hit three homers. This was the first time in the last 100 years that the Yankees have had back-to-back games with 13+ runs, 18 hits and three homers. Friday and Saturday were also the first back-to-back games where every starter got a hit since July 26-27, 2009. That year was also the last time that the Yankees won the World Series.
The Yankees bullpen pitched well as Layne, Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Kirby Yates combined to pitch 4.1 innings, allow five hits, record four strikeouts and only allow Yates’s run in the ninth. Girardi’s team will somewhat miraculously be able to trim the wild card deficit to only 1.5 games if the Yankees can sweep the Orioles on Sunday afternoon.
Some counted the Yankees out after they trade Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova before the trade deadline but Clippard, Warren, Sanchez, Luis Cessa, Aaron Judge and other young players have stepped up to get the team closer to a playoff spot than they were before.
CC Sabathia will get the start for Sunday’s 1:05 EST game. He will look to pitch like he did in his previous game on the 23rd in Seattle when the 36-year-old lefty only allowed one run in seven innings while striking out seven.