Before the start of free agency, many figured the New York Yankees would be in play for a potential reunion with Aroldis Chapman and it looks like the Yankees are looking to make good on that.
Reports have already circulated around the league, just days after the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series that the Yankees have already reached out to the agent and representation for the left-handed closer; the same closer the Yankees acquired in a trade last winter and the same closer the Yankees dealt to the Cubs over the summer at the trade deadline.
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When the Yankees made the trade last December with the Cincinnati Reds to get Chapman, they were adding to a strength, putting Chapman with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances and solidified a back-end of a bullpen that some thought would help the Yankees compete for a championship. Miller and Chapman did end up competing for a championship, but on different teams after the Yankees faltered in the first half of the season and ended up being traded to the Cleveland Indians and Cubs respectively over the summer.
But now that Chapman is free and able to choose his next suitor, the Yankees aren’t wasting much time in trying to get their old closer back and it shows the emphasis the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman are putting on the improvement of their pitching staff.
With the roster and the lineup being mostly filled through the team’s farm system and current veterans, the Yankees main area of focus this offseason will be pitching and adding to both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Betances had a chance to showcase what he could do as the closer with Tyler Clippard as the setup man and Adam Warren back as the seventh inning guy and part time setup man, and while it worked well in the first month, Betances struggled terribly in September and helped in the Yankees fall from a possible Wild Card spot, posting a 10.80 ERA in the final month of the 2016 season.
Sure, being a closer can be very difficult and can take time to learn, but Betances already has value on the Yankees being the seventh and eighth inning guy on the team. As a closer, he looked mediocre at times and not like the multiple-time American League All-Star who has been overpowering hitters for the last three years.
The interest in Chapman shows what the Yankees see; they want Chapman to be the closer and for Betances to return back to what he has been doing for the last couple of seasons; dominating. Yes, closers do get more money on the open market and eventually, Betances will get his money. But good relievers like him, just like Miller, get paid pretty well too and given the new defining roles of relievers in Major League Baseball, some of the better setup men in the league are now getting paid as well as closers too.
With Chapman in the Bronx, he helped a Yankees turnaround after a 9-17 start and got them well over .500 before the Yankees decided to part with him and others at the trade deadline four months ago; a move that was best for the Yankees to help their future in allowing their younger players the chance to come up and cut their teeth in the big leagues and gain valuable experience with the team.
And while the Yankees will continue with their youth movement into the future, bringing back their closer from last season in Chapman seems to be a top priority for the team this offseason, as it very well should be.