The Yankees have made their move of the offseason by re-signing Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. That’s $17.2 million a year for a reliever. This year’s free agent class is certainly lacking in game-changing talent, so the Yankees needed to put all that extra cash into something, I suppose. The pact eclipses the recording-holding $62 million deal over four years that Mark Melancon signed with the San Francisco Giants just days ago, making this the highest ever contract for a reliever.
After signing Matt Holliday, the Yankees put all their energy into finding a new closer for their bullpen. They made contract offers to both Chapman and Kenley Jansen, but it was clear that the owner of the 105 mph ball was on the top of their list. They also briefly looked into trading with the Chicago White Sox for David Robertson or signing Sergio Romo.
As for the contract details, he has a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the deal, with a limited no-trade clause in the final two years of the deal. It apparently says that the Yankees cannot trade him to any team in California because...reasons. Interestingly, he will have an opt-out clause after the third year, allowing him to become a free agent following the 2019 season.
Many like to complain about how no-trade clauses ultimately benefit the player over the team. While that can be true, it’s also a great device to get a good player to leave when you really just don’t want to pay him anymore. The problem with this particular opt out clause is the timing of it. As much as someone like Aroldis Chapman might improve the Yankees in 2017, this is not a team that is one piece—one reliever—away from competing. New York got him for the long haul, but the problem is that by the time this team’s best prospects are up and contributing, Chapman will be heading out the door.
Make no mistake, as long as he is a healthy and functioning pitcher, Aroldis Chapman will opt out of his deal and see what he can get in the 2019 free agent market. Who knows what kind of deals relievers will be earning by then.
It’s true that the Yankees have new money to spend with not too much to spend it on, but this smells exactly like a money grab for an All-Star that will keep the masses occupied while Hal Steinbrenner continues to purchase new yachts. They did the same thing with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, and they are doing the same thing now. It made a lot more sense to go after a short-term asset that would have given them solid production now but also financial freedom down the road.
Make no mistake, this was a Hal Steinbrenner production. Liked the buzz Chapman created at Stadium (among the few to do so).Wanted this done— Erik Boland (@eboland11) December 8, 2016
Instead of focusing their efforts on acquiring a reliable starting pitcher, the Yankees are once again putting all their hopes into a bullpen that won’t be able to save them. Remember the first half of 2016 when the combination of Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances did little to help the team be even a little watchable? The Yankees say they aren’t worried about the Red Sox acquiring Chris Sale, and maybe they shouldn’t be, but this is not really the correct way to respond.
Now the Yankees will have to hope that a pitcher, whose sole value is the speed of his fastball, can keep things going for a few more years. Now thousands of Yankees fans will be forced to root for, or at least deal with, a suspected, unrepentant domestic abuser, and that’s not fair. The way the Yankees acquired Chapman last offseason was ugly enough—using a diminishment in value because of the threat of a suspension to their advantage. This is not an athlete to celebrate, not in 2016. And hear this—most fans out there aren’t cursing the Yankees, they are laughing because it wasn’t their team who made this decision. We all need to be better.