Aroldis Chapman – New York Yankees Closer

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Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees Closer

Aroldis Chapman will pitch his tenth season in the big leagues as the closer for the New York Yankees at the age of 31.Tall and lean at 6-4, 215 lbs, Chapman missed more than a month of 2018 on the DL. More alarming, however, was his lack of command and striking loss of velocity when he returned to action.

Following Aroldis Chapman’s return, Pinstripe Alley noted that “Chapman’s return is particularly interesting, as before his trip to the DL, he was clearly playing at less than 100 percent. Chapman threw just five pitches in his last game before going on the shelf, all fastballs. Per Statcast, they averaged 96 mph, a far cry from Chapman’s typically historical velocity. His softest pitch came in at 95.2 mph. He clearly wasn’t himself.”

At the moment, there is a concern that two heavily relied on bullpen artists and currently, free agents, David Robertson, and Zach Britton will sign elsewhere, leaving two rather large holes for Brian Cashman to fill before the season begins.

Of greater concern, though, is Chapman himself, no matter who he is paired with closing games for the Yankees in 2019.

Seemingly, Chapman’s physical ailments and inability to locate his fastball and devastating slider trace back to 2016.  It was then Brian Cashman recognized an opportunity to steal Gleyber Torres, then the number one prospect in all of baseball, from the Chicago Cubs, who were in desperate need of a closer and on their way to their already storied World Championship.

In all, the Cubs used Aroldis Chapman 28 times to close out the regular season, and then, another grueling thirteen appearances in the postseason of 2016. Mainly viewed by the Cubs as a rental to finish out the season, Chapman was later re-signed by the Yankees as a free agent and paid $80 million to return to the Bronx.

Chapman has an opt-out following the upcoming season with no buyout opportunity for the Yankees if things go south. Approximately $52 million is owed to Chapman before the contract expires after the 2022 season.

However, this is not about money. The Yankees have plenty of it, and what they really need from Aroldis Chapman is a return to form and staying healthy, so Aaron Boone does not face what he did last season, alternating closers on a game by game basis when Chapman was out.

Relief pitchers always say they are willing to pitch anywhere in a game, depending on what the situation dictates. But chances for a team’s overall success increase rapidly when each member of the bullpen has a role specifically designed for them.

Dellin Betances and Tommy Kahnle are both capable of closing if need be, but the Yankees bullpen works best when each handles the seventh and eighth innings, followed by Chapman to close.

Aroldis Chapman did not dramatically hurt the Yankees last season. It’s just that he didn’t help them enough. That needs to change in 2019 if the Yankees are set to capture Number 28.

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Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball