The Yankees stirred up controversy when they signed Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. For a laundry list of reasons, observers criticized the deal as ill-advised. Questions of Chapman’s durability and longevity lingered. These issues were meant for the later years of the contract, though. They’re relevant now, however, as Ken Rosenthal reports that Chapman is headed to the 10-day disabled list with left rotator cuff inflammation. Chad Green will be called up to take his roster spot.
In the early going, it’s been a tale of two seasons for Chapman. Through his first seven appearances, he looked like the pitcher for whom the Yankees broke the bank. His next seven, however, portrayed him as wholly ineffective.
Aroldis Chapman’s 2017 Results
|April 4th - 22nd||6.1||0||1.11||3||12.79||2.84|
|April 26th - May 12th||6.1||7.11||1.58||9||17.05||5.68|
The April 26th game at Fenway Park stands out as a turning point. During this outing, Chapman nearly thew away a three run lead. It took him 33 pitches to escape the ninth inning, one where he allowed a hit and issued two walks. He lacked command and experienced a loss in velocity. That’s as bad a combination as you can get for a relief pitcher.
Following the game, rumors circulated that Chapman may have suffered an injury while pitching. Viewers noted that he reached for his elbow when departing the mound. All parties involved denied these reports, however:
Girardi & Cashman both reacted with surprise when asked about the Aroldis Chapman elbow grab, said Chapman hasn't complained about anything.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) April 27, 2017
Subsequent outings didn’t look much better. Joe Girardi had to remove Chapman from his last two appearances before he completed a full inning of work. These include his blown save at Wrigley Field - the one that launched the extra innings marathon - and his meltdown against the Astros. Injury concerns resurfaced in the latter, where Chapman appeared to shake his arm between pitches. The display seemed noticeable enough to prompt a visit from the athletic trainer.
“That’s why I sent [Steve Donohue] out there,” Joe Girardi told the New York Post. “I saw that too. He said he was fine. No pain, nothing. I don’t know if it is a colder night, windy, I am not really sure. That was my concern.’’
Now it’s clear that Chapman was indeed injured. His ineffectiveness likely stemmed from this, and that’s frustrating. Players tend to fight through pain, but that never ends well. We saw it with Greg Bird earlier this season. We don’t know the specifics of Chapman’s situation, but it’s fair to say that he should have landed on the disabled list after the Boston fiasco. He looked hurt there, likely because he was hurt.
It’s worth noting that some observers lamented the Chapman contract because the Yankees made a win-now move during a transition period. They argued that the team shouldn’t pay top dollar for a closer when they weren’t expected to win. When the club was ready to compete, Chapman would likely be in decline. In an ironic turn of events, the Yankees look competitive now. They boast a 21 - 12 record and rank among the best teams in the league. Their closer, however, struggled and then got hurt. Go figure.
In part, the Yankees signed Chapman to fill seats. Hal Steinbrenner said as much with his ineloquent remarks on the eve of spring training. The team believes it can market his high-octane fastball and strikeouts. They’re banking on him holding up for the long-haul, or at least until he reaches his contractual opt-out clause. If the start to this season is indicative of how the rest of his deal will play out, however, that plan might backfire. Chapman could return and bounce back, but this injury remind us of what a misguided contract he signed.