Today, the New York Yankees reinstated Aroldis Chapman after a heel injury has kept him on the IL since May. Prior to Chapman going on the IL, he was looking incredibly shaky on the mound and wasn’t giving fans a lot of confidence in his ability to close games.
In Chapman’s last five games for the Yankees before hitting the IL, he lost two games and gave up six runs over the course of 3.2 innings. Good for an ERA of 14.75. Just what you want to see from your closer right?
Of course, the injury probably played a big role in his horrific outings. I mean prior to that stretch, he had secured seven saves without allowing a run. The man was pitching like the great closer that he can be when he’s at his best.
While he was out, the Yankees handed the closing role over to Clay Holmes. Holmes has been having a historically good season for New York pitching to a 0.49 ERA and securing 14 saves and four victories. Holmes has a WAR of 2.0 and we aren’t even halfway through the season.
For context, Aroldis Chapman’s highest WAR for the Yankees in his tenure in pinstripes was 1.6. Holmes has not only been the best reliever for New York, he’s been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.
Yankees can’t make a mistake to protect Chapman
The Yankees have a real shot to win the World Series this year. As we get closer to the All Star break, they have been by far the best team in baseball this year and currently hold a 12.5 game lead in the AL East.
One of the reasons they’ve been so good is due to the success of Clay Holmes. When the Yankees have a lead in the ninth inning, I think I can speak for fans and say that I’m not really worried about the outcome of the game.
In all the years he’s been with New York, I’ve never been able to say that with Chapman. Sure, he’s put up great numbers and on paper, I’m crazy for saying that. However, take a poll of anyone who watches the Yankees consistently and ask them if they are confident when Aroldis Chapman takes the mound.
He’s not Mariano Rivera and if one little thing is out of whack, everything goes to Hell. Aaron Boone has not committed one way or another in terms of where he’ll pitch Chapman when he starts getting into games.
Boone has said, “We’ll pick spots and try to get him in spots where he can be successful. That could be anywhere from a high leverage situation to a mid-leverage to a low-leverage. Getting him going and hopefully getting him in rhythm. I’m not going to be tied to anything, especially initially.”
He also didn’t commit to keeping Clay Holmes in the closer role for the Yankees. I’m telling you now, Clay Holmes needs to be the permanent closer for New York. They don’t need to tip-toe just because Chapman is back. That spot belongs to Holmes.
What should New York do?
I’ve heard people like Michael Kay say he thinks that the Yankees will let Chapman close because his ego won’t let him be successful in any other role. So, is New York supposed to coddle and protect Chapman and risk wins in the process?
Here’s my opinion on what they should do and feel free to let your feelings fly in the comments. The Yankees need to keep Holmes in the closers role. They also need to find showcase spots for Chapman in high-leverage situations that show he’s somewhat back to normal.
If Chapman is showing that he’s close to being 100% and he’s pitching well, you do what you can to trade him. Would the Yankees really miss Aroldis Chapman if he was gone? The answer is no and the proof is how good they’ve been without him.
They don’t need him and having him could create an October headache that this team simply doesn’t need in the middle of a potential World Series run. If Chapman is pitching well, you might find a contender that is wanting to add him. You won’t get a ton, but you’ll get something.
Is it unfair to Chapman who was good before the injury and has never had an ERA above 3.36 in his Yankees career? Perhaps, but this is a cut-throat year with a chance to win the WS. Cashman should be ultra aggressive at the deadline to sure up loose ends, and Chapman lingering could be an unnecessary loose end.