The term “value” is tossed around an awful lot in the baseball world. The most important individual award even has the word in its name. The exact meaning of it is heavily disputed, however, and there are a lot of ways to interpret it, all of which can be at least partially correct.
Thinking about value in the negative direction is no different. This year’s Yankees least valuable player is not the most illustrious award, but someone has to dejectedly hoist the trophy. Considering all angles as best as I could, the (un)lucky winner is Aroldis Chapman.
He may not have been the absolute worst player of the year for New York, but there had to be at least some kind of criteria to be met in order to be eligible. The lefty did not exactly pitch a full season, throwing 36.1 innings for the Yanks, but how he performed over that time is the most important thing. There were some small sample Yankees who were even worse (Estevan Florial had a -7 wRC+), but Chapman’s innings are enough for him to garner consideration for this title.
The Yankees had their fair share of dark or at least disappointing spots throughout this roster, so Chapman likely wouldn’t win such an award unanimously. Josh Donaldson, who is looked upon even worse following the postseason, was largely a bust for the Yankees this year. But looking at the situation realistically, he at least finished about league-average at the plate and played good defense at third. Isiah Kiner-Falefa left a similarly bad taste in fans’ mouths, but he at least played a mostly everyday role at short, which isn’t nothing. Aaron Hicks was a similar story to Donaldson, and he at least had a couple of months where he was a solid contributor. All these are stories of below average players being asked to be a little better than they actually are; Chapman, on the other hand, was supposed to be The Closer, and flamed out entirely.
For those 36.1 innings, Chapman had a 4.46 ERA and an even worse 4.57 FIP, amounting to -0.2 fWAR on the year. Essentially, he got worse at thing he was best at (getting strikeouts), on top of getting worse with his existing issues with walks and control.
Chapman was one of just four Yankee pitchers to accrue a negative fWAR on the season. The other three totaled just 2.1 innings between all of them, those three being Zack Britton, Anthony Banda, and Shane Greene. So realistically, Chapman was the only one with a real impact among them. He was also tied for the worst win probability added among all Yankee pitchers, which points to his poor situational performances as well. It could be argued that Chapman did more to negatively impact the team this year than any other player on the roster, which is the main reason why he takes home this “award.”
There is also the money angle of this argument. Not only was Chapman one of the worst contributors in 2022, he also was on the books for $18 million this year. Realistically, it shouldn’t matter to fans what players make, but unfortunately it does end up affecting the roster, the way the Yankees are run in the Hal Steinbrenner era.
Even in a more general sense, this was a rough season for Chapman on the Yankees. Although by the end of the year he wasn’t deserving of a spot anyway, he quite literally did not show up in the playoffs, where pitching depth can loom large for any team.
The 2022 Yankees a few disappointing players and performances to point to, ending ultimately in a big collective disappointment. Aroldis Chapman was the most disappointing. His season, and more than likely his tenure with the Yankees, went out with a whimper at the end of the year to finish off a season worthy of this year’s Least Valuable Player.