2016 Statistics: 58 IP, 1.55 ERA, 1.42 FIP, 14.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.862 WHIP
Age on Opening Day 2017: 29
In December of 2015 the Yankees acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Reds. At the time, Chapman was under investigation for domestic violence, and it was unclear how that situation would be resolved. Chapman ended up being suspended for 30 days, was not allowed to pitch during spring training, and did not make his Yankees debut until May 9th. He immediately took over the role of closer and he pitched very well. Through 31 and one-third innings, Chapman had a 2.01 ERA with 20 saves. After a mediocre first half of the season, the Yankees decided to dismantle their super bullpen by sending Chapman to the Cubs. Now they have a chance to bring him back as a free agent.
It is very early in the offseason, but Brian Cashman has already been in contact with Chapman. Although the Yankees arguably need starting pitching more than anything else, this free agent class doesn’t feature any big name starters. On the other hand, Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon are all on the market, so teams with money to spend (like the Yankees) could go all-in on an expensive closer.
One of the potential downsides to signing Chapman is that he wants a lot of money. In fact, Chapman is said to be seeking a contract worth $100 million over five years. The Yankees can afford a deal like that, but it is unclear whether it would be worth it to pay that much for Chapman. There is no denying that he is a great pitcher, but there are some other options out there. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Melancon will sign a deal worth half the amount of what Chapman is asking for, and he is coming off of four consistently good seasons. Jansen is also a fantastic reliever, but he will ultimately cost the team that signs him a draft pick because the Dodgers extended him a qualifying offer. Still, he should be a cheaper option than Chapman.
Another important consideration is whether adding a closer would push the team closer to the playoffs. The rotation is currently just Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda. The Yankees could pick up someone like Rich Hill, but any free agent starter that they sign is going to be a gamble. Cashman is always full of surprises, and could acquire a starting pitcher (or two), but we’ll have to wait and see what happens over the next few months. Aside from the rotation full of question marks, there is also the fact that the lineup could use some help. It’s fun to have a great closer and set-up guy, but as we saw in 2016, they aren’t that helpful when the offense and rotation don’t also come together.
The Yankees are not the only team interested in Chapman. The Dodgers and the Giants are also shopping around for a closer, and the Giants reportedly feel confident that they will sign one of Chapman, Jansen, and Melancon. The Dodgers had originally agreed to a trade with the Reds for Chapman before the domestic violence allegations leaked in 2015. Of course, just because Jansen rejected their qualifying offer doesn’t mean that he won’t still sign a deal with the Dodgers. It will be interesting to see where all three of these closers end up.
Do you think the Yankees should sign Chapman or would you rather see them sign Jansen or Melancon?