The Yankees see longtime closer depart for the Royals

aroldis chapman, yankees

While it was very apparent from the moment that former Yankees bullpen arm Aroldis Chapman decided to skip the postseason workouts that he was most likely not returning, it’s finally official. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that it’s a one-year $3.75 million deal with bonuses based on performance with the Kansas City Royals, a far cry from the megadeal he got from the Yankees. 2022 severely damaged Chapman’s stock, and it shows in this contract.

The Yankees might go closer-by-committee with their bullpen, and without Chapman, they’ll have personnel willing to work in fluid, undefined roles.

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What Went Wrong for Aroldis Chapman in 2022?

Aroldis Chapman truly struggled to do much right all season. When you look at what’s valued on the market, it’s performance, health, and a player’s baggage. When we evaluate these three facets of value, Chapman failed to really exceed in any of those three categories last season. First, Aroldis Chapman had a 4.46 ERA in 2022, which was considered 16% worse than average by FanGraphs’ ERA- metric. This was paired with a -0.2 fWAR and 1.43 WHIP, career worsts for Chapman across the board. His command was erratic, he imploded countless times for the Yankees, and he was unreliable throughout the season.

His command was the biggest issue by far, with an 88.2 Location+ and 17.5% BB% in 2022. He didn’t have a feel for any of his pitches consistently, and it led to what was a disastrous farewell season to the Bronx. We’ll discuss his entire tenure in pinstripes later, but this season left a terrible taste in the mouths of many Yankee fans. This wasn’t just a player succumbing to older age or just not having anymore, but someone who showed legitimate signs of just not caring.

Unreliable wouldn’t just describe his performance on the field, as Chapman was remarkably unreliable off it as well. The IL stint he had late in August due to a tattoo he got that would eventually become infected was downright irresponsible. Do what you want as a person, however, it’s a risk that’s very well-known by anyone who has ever gotten a tattoo. It doesn’t make sense to do in-season, especially when he had just come off the IL a month earlier from injury. The final nail in the coffin came when the Yankees couldn’t guarantee him a playoff roster spot (due to poor performance), and so he decided to just stay in Miami.

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman
Oct 19, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman (54) prepares to deliver a pitch during the ninth inning against the Houston Astros in game six of the 2019 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With over two months spent on the IL in total with those injuries, he only threw 36.1 innings last year, and he’ll be 35 in 2023. Definitely not an ideal situation when we’re talking about injury risk, but it’s nothing too concerning. What’s concerning is the horrible performance last season and, most importantly, the issues he had with simply being committed to winning in 2023. Whether it was poor decision-making, his impulse, or trying to move on from New York, this just isn’t something that’ll fly in an MLB organization when you’re no longer a superstar reliever.

How Does This Affect the Yankees?

Well, as I mentioned before, most people would say the Yankees weren’t going to bring Aroldis Chapman back. The relationship just seemed too damaged to be repaired after the postseason camp fiasco, and he’s simply not that good anymore. There are plenty of options in that bullpen that would be considered better, and while Chapman still has elite stuff (139.4 Stuff+), he’s on the wrong side of 30, and it’s been a command issue, not a velocity/movement issue. Ultimately, this just gives the Yankees the fluidity to be able to use whoever they want in the 9th inning. Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, and many others are going to get closer reps this year.

yankees, Clay Holmes
Sep 11, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Clay Holmes (35) delivers a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

This is the ideal situation for a modern-day bullpen, as you can use your best reliever in the most stressful part of a game and not just keep them for the 9th inning. Baseball games can be won or lost in the 7th/8th innings, and having the flexibility to bring in someone like Holmes and just have Loaisiga close is remarkably important. Aroldis Chapman was really only going to fully accept a closer role, and that was becoming a bigger issue as other pitchers emerged, and he gradually declined.

It’s a new era for the Yankees’ bullpen, and that’s something to keep a watchful eye on throughout the season.

Reflecting on Aroldis Chapman’s Time in Pinstripes

As much as 2022 was a disaster, it’s hard to argue that Aroldis Chapman wasn’t one of the best relievers in baseball while in pinstripes. He had a 2.01 ERA with the Yankees in 2016 before being dealt for Gleyber Torres and then immediately signed back with the Yankees and had a 2.82 ERA, 124 Saves, and 366 strikeouts from 2017-2021. The 2019 Altuve HR and the 2020 Brosseau HR were low points for Chapman, but I’m not entirely sure that entirely negates the previously mentioned production with the Yankees. The problem with Aroldis Chapman wasn’t necessarily his performance as much as it was the constant off-the-field issues.

Back when the Yankees initially acquired him from the Cincinnati Reds, Chapman already had to start his Yankee career serving a suspension for violating MLB’s Domestic Violence Policy. While I won’t go into the specifics of the event, it would put a very dark cloud over Chapman’s head before stepping foot in Yankee Stadium. Then you have the incident in 2020 where he was suspended 3 games by MLB as they believed he intentionally threw at Mike Brosseau, but the problem was that it was by his head. The fiascos we saw in 2022 were continuations of what was a headline-filled tenure for Aroldis Chapman in pinstripes.

aroldis chapman, yankees

With Chapman now in Kansas City, he’ll spend the 14th year of his career adding a 4th organization to his resume. Oddly enough, Chapman’s longest tenure with any team is the Yankees. It’ll be the first time since the 2016 trade deadline that the Yankees won’t have their longtime closer on the roster, but it’s definitely for the best at this point, and I hope we’ll see fewer non-baseball-related headlines regarding players on the Yankees.