On late Wednesday night, the New York Yankees were able re-acquire their closer and bring him back to the Bronx, as Aroldis Chapman will re-don the pinstripes for the 2017 season.
The Yankees, who had initially traded Chapman in late July at the trade deadline to the Chicago Cubs, agreed to a five-year, $86 million deal; a deal that makes him the highest paid relief pitcher in MLB history and surpasses the deal signed by Mark Melancon with the San Francisco Giants this winter by $24 million.
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Many felt once the off-season started that the Yankees were going to bring Chapman back all along, as the Cuban flame-throwing reliever had expressed his public interest in returning to the Yankees because of the way the organization and the fans treated him and loved the atmosphere of New York City and pitching at Yankee Stadium.
This deal was the right move to make for the Yankees, as both the Yankees and Chapman won out with this new contract.
First, the Yankees didn’t have to surrender a first-round draft pick (under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement) to get Chapman; they would have if they had signed Kenley Jansen, but because Chapman was traded mid-season to the Cubs, a draft pick was not attached to Chapman and it simply cost the Yankees money in the deal. Keeping the draft pick is a win for the Yankees, who now value having their higher round picks in the draft.
Next, Chapman makes the Yankees better as a team and as a pitching staff overall. When Chapman came back from his 30-game suspension in May, the Yankees were 9-17 and struggling heading into early May. After that, the Yankees were 20 games over .500 and had the look of a playoff team before they decided to part with some of their veteran players at the deadline.
When Chapman and Andrew Miller both got traded, the Yankees bullpen took a hit and it forced Dellin Betances into the closer job. At first, he was good, but by September, he had a 10.80 ERA in the final month when closing out games and didn’t look like the same All-Star pitcher who was overpowering hitters. By putting Betances back as the setup man and getting Chapman back as the closer, it deepens and strengthens the bullpen. Plus, having Tyler Clippard there as well for the 7th inning and Adam Warren for the 6th and 7th inning, it really makes the Yankees bullpen that deep like it once was and could shorten games.
Ultimately, it shows that the Yankees are not conceding the season in 2017. Sure, they are going to move forward with some of the younger players; Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Tyler Austin and of course, Gary Sanchez. But signing Chapman to a massive free agent deal isn’t a move done by a rebuilding team. If the Yankees were really in a rebuild mode, they would have kept Betances as the closer and let him learn on the job.
But by signing Chapman, it shows that the Yankees are committed to winning and feel like they have a team that could contend in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles are no guarantee to be any better in 2017 and neither are the Toronto Blue Jays, who could end up losing both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista this winter, so the Yankees could end up battling the Boston Red Sox in the division.
With the Yankees winning in this deal, so did Chapman, and what 12 months it has been for him.
12 months ago, he had the accusations against him with the domestic violence case (one that was dismissed), but the Los Angeles Dodgers backed out of the trade to land him and the Cincinnati Reds didn’t want him anymore and virtually dumped him off for pennies on the dollar in the trade to the Yankees. Chapman returned from his suspension and continued to show people why he is one of the most intimidating relief pitchers in the sport, especially when he touches triple digits on the radar gun, and by doing that, he re-established his value in the league and had teams calling the Yankees in the summer for his services.
And not to mention, Chapman also helped the Cubs end a 108-year championship drought when he helped them win the World Series, so that helped his value for his free agency, which paid off: big time.
At the end of the day, everyone won in this; well, except for the opponents of the Yankees in the ninth inning who have to try and challenge Chapman’s fastball.