To Keep or Not to Keep: Aroldis Chapman
by Ethan Semendinger
June 28, 2021
Over the next month as we begin to approach the 2021 Trade Deadline season, Ethan will be taking you through most of the Yankees MLB talent (including those on the IL) and his give opinions on what he would do if he ran the team and on what the Yankees will likely do.
Today we’ll be discussing Aroldis Chapman.
MLB Postseason/Division/WS Odds for the New York Yankees (2021): Preseason: Fangraphs – 91.3%/71.0%/17.5% BBRef – 84.0%/63.1%/11.8% 538 – 83%/60%/14% On June 14th: Fangraphs – 44.5%/14.4%/5.7% BBRef – 19.3%/0.9%/0.8% 538 – 37%/8%/3%#Yankees #StartSpreadingtheNews — Start Spreading The News (@NYY_Report) June 14, 2021
Understanding This Series:
At the beginning of this series, the Yankees currently sit with a 33-32 record, are 4th in the AL East (8.5 GB of the Rays), and are 6th in the AL Wild Card race (4 GB of the Astros). If they want to win 93 games this season (what they’d likely need for a wild card spot) they’ll have to play .618 baseball, a winning percentage of which just 2 teams (Rays and White Sox) are currently playing at. In this series we’re not believing that the Yankees, under their current roster construction and self-inflicted restrictions, have a shot at the playoffs. Thus, we’re looking at the 2021 Trade Deadline as a place to sell and to look towards 2022 and the future for this team.
Aroldis Chapman Background:
Aroldis Chapman began his Yankee career late in 2015, being a major offseason acquisition for a collection of future middling MLB players (Rookie Davis, Caleb Cotham, etc.) but he didn’t stay for long. As the Yankees of the 2016 season realized they were done. They weren’t competitive. They should sell. So the Yankees sold high on Chapman (and Andrew Miller) getting back a solid package of:
Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, (the return of) Andrew Miller, and Rashad Crawford
The Yankees recognized it was a key time to sell and quickly retool for the future and it was a deal that gave them their current starting shortstop (I’ll discuss Gleyber another day). However, like the Yankees his time with the Cubs would also be short-lived through the end of the 2016 season. He won a championship and then quickly came back to the Yankees for 2017 a 5-Year/$86 Million deal and then signed a 3-Year/$48 Million extension for 2019-2022.
In his Yankee career from 2017-2020 he has been good, pitching to a combined 2.64 ERA (168 ERA+; 2.35 FIP) over 170.1 innings (180 appearances) with 94 saves (146 games finished), a WHIP of 1.080, 269 strikeouts (14.2 K/9), and 79 walks (4.2 BB/9). So far in 2021 he has been much aligned with these numbers:
2.54 ERA (166 ERA+; 2.76 FIP), 16 saves (30 games; 23 games finished), a WHIP of 1.235, 49 Strikeouts (15.6 K/9), and 16 Walks (5.1 BB/9).
However, of recent history Chapman has not been pitching well. With a recent blow-up during a close Royals game (that the Yankees did eventually win, which also gave Chapman the win) and other poor outings since being scoreless through the beginning month+ of the season, there are some concerns with his game.
Me, I’m personally not too worried about it. This is the Aroldis Chapman that we’ve become used to as Yankees fans over the past few years. There is almost always a period each season where Chapman becomes incredibly vulnerable and gets hit hard.
He’ll bounce back. The question isn’t if, but when. (And how that may affect trade value.)
What I’d Do and What the Yankees Will Do:
A month ago, Aroldis Chapman was an obvious player and pick to make the All-Star team. Now there is a lot more hesitation about that happening, which goes to show the fickle and very nature of being a relief pitcher. Especially one who pitches mostly in tough and stressful situations to cement victories on repeat.
However, I don’t think that this recent implosion (while bad) is necessarily that damaging to his trade value. This is because only so many teams will be willing to take on a relief pitcher with $17 Million due for the 2022 season. Of them you’d truly only have the high-profile, big market teams that would likely create a market for Chapman: The Los Angeles Dodgers, The San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox, The San Diego Padres, and maybe even the New York Mets.
Each of these teams could use Chapman. Well, really, every team could given his ERA is better than the best team bullpen ERA in the MLB (Chicago Cubs at 2.67). So, there could be a market. Though, the most important factor would be Chapman himself as he has a complete no-trade clause in his contract.
However, I can’t see a pitcher like Chapman- somebody who knows the glamour and intensity and pressure of not only the World Series, but Game 7, in the 9th inning- would want to stick with a middling Yankees team if he was offered to be traded to a true contender.
What would I do? 100% I would shop Aroldis Chapman around.
It would net the Yankees back good prospects, it would open up payroll and it is unlikely the Yankees are serious contenders or need a player like Chapman hanging around this team for 2021 (and likely also 2022 given how things have gone).
But, the Yankees won’t trade him. They’ll hold him around to keep as a closer for 2022 in a year where they’ll be “going for it” again with another similarly built team with many holes to repair and too much money held up that could better be used elsewhere.