New York Yankees fans will be at least partially forgiven if they’re unable to remember a time when Aroldis Chapman wasn’t the full-time closer.
What, the David Robertson era in 2014 meant nothing to you?
Through the highs of three All-Star nods and the lows of, well, Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, Chapman has enjoyed a mostly-successful seven seasons with the Yankees. However, the 34-year-old is in the final year of a three-year contract, and the Cuban Missile’s time in pinstripes could rapidly be approaching its end.
Unless, of course, Chapman gets his way next offseason.
Aroldis Chapman wants to stay with the Yankees, so long as they want to bring him back in 2022
Unless something unexpectedly changes in the coming weeks, Yankees All-Star right fielder Aaron Judge will likely have an opportunity to test free agency later this year. Chapman, who turned 34 in February, might be on the open market alongside the 2017 AL MVP runner-up.
With that said, Chapman sounds like he’d be more than fine if he doesn’t hit free agency in November.
Through a translator, the veteran left-hander told NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty that he wants to remain with the Yankees moving forward. Chapman is already in his seventh season with the team, albeit his second stint after he spent the final few months of the 2016 campaign with the Chicago Cubs; the Yankees dealt him only months after acquiring him from the Cincinnati Reds.
“I’ve been a part of this [team] for a good amount of time. Yeah, if tomorrow comes and the opportunity is there, and I have a chance to sign back with the team, of course, I would like that. But like I said, I’m focusing on what I’m doing here right now, what I need to do, and if that is to come, then it’s to come.”Aroldis Chapman
Counting his two scoreless frames to open the 2022 season, Chapman is 20-10 with a 2.70 ERA and 145 saves in 274 games with the Yankees. He owns 413 strikeouts in 260 innings with the 27-time World Series champions and ranks fourth in saves in a Yankees uniform.
Unfortunately for Chapman, the Bronx Bombers might be best served by moving on
To his credit, Chapman doesn’t sound like someone who intends on playing hardball (pun totally intended) in free agency negotiations. The veteran reliever told Kuty that he is open to pitching in roles beyond closer as he grows older; both he and Yankees manager Aaron Boone confirmed this spring that he would not exclusively be limited to the ninth inning this year.
“If it was up to me, I would love to retire as a closer,” Chapman said. “But at the same time, you don’t know what kind of negotiation could come in the future. You don’t know what kind of requests you might get from the future or who you’re negotiating with at the time.”
All of that could prove fruitful for Chapman, especially given his status as a left-handed reliever. However, the Yankees must seriously begin weighing the pros and cons of bringing him back for 2023 and possibly beyond.
Chapman has had far too many instances in his Yankees career where he’ll suddenly lose control of his command. Throwing 102 mph doesn’t mean anything if you can’t hit the strike zone in a one-run game. Even the calmest Yankees fans are prone to expressing doubt and anxiety when Chapman takes the mound.
If Chapman has an excellent 2022 season, he could still find a way to command at least $8 million per year in his next contract. But do the Yankees really want to pay that to a closer who has had so many bouts of inconsistency in recent years? No, not every closer is going to be Mariano Rivera, but it’d be nice if Yankees fans could feel comfortable when their supposed-shutdown reliever enters the game.
Who would replace Chapman if the Yankees don’t re-sign him?
The 2022-23 MLB free-agent market could include closers Edwin Diaz and Kenley Jansen, or it could include neither. If a reliable closer emerges on a team like the Baltimore Orioles or Pittsburgh Pirates, they may find themselves wearing a Yankees uniform next year.
Realistically, the Yankees could turn to Jonathan Loáisiga, the 27-year-old who turned in a 2.17 ERA in 57 games out of the bullpen last year. It appears the Nicaragua-born right-hander’s days of starting are over, and he’s under team control until 2025.
Although veteran left-hander Zack Britton saved 139 games in eight seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, he is expected to miss the bulk of the 2022 campaign as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Would the Yankees really want to entrust a 35-year-old, one who had a 5.89 ERA in 22 games last season, with the closer role next year?
Then again, these are the Yankees we’re talking about here. If it’s not Chapman closing games next year, it will be someone else doing so with an extremely high salary and a lack of reliability.