Aroldis Chapman, a left-handed pitcher, is set to sign a one-year contract with the Royals. The lefty could receive an additional $4 million in performance bonuses in addition to his $3.75 million base salary. A physical is required for the Wasserman client’s deal.
Chapman, who turns 35 in February, was one of baseball’s most feared closers for more than a decade. However, over the past few years, he has fallen from those heights. He made 563 appearances with the Reds, Cubs, and Yankees from 2010 to 2020, posting a 2.25 earned run average and 276 saves. He had a high walk rate of 11.5 percent during that time, but he also had a remarkable strikeout rate of 41.2 percent. Only Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel had more saves during that time, and only Josh Hader had a higher strikeout rate (at least 100 innings pitched), even though Hader made his debut in 2017 and used a much smaller sample.
However, Chapman’s command seemed to get worse in 2021, as he walked 15.6% of batters who reached base. His strikeout rate remained impressive at 39.9%, but his 3.36 ERA was his highest since 2011. His walk rate increased to 17.5% the previous year, and he only struck out 26.9% of the batters he faced. Even though that last number was significantly lower than his previous performance, it remained above average. His ERA increased to 4.46 when the control issues were taken into account. His fastball, which used to average in the high teens, is now “just” 97.5 mph on average.
Chapman’s problems went beyond his on-field performance as well. When he was suspended for 30 games due to an allegation of domestic violence, he had already attracted the ire of numerous baseball fans. He also irked a lot of Yankees fans recently when he missed time with an infection from a tattoo. The club then removed him from their playoff roster after he failed to participate in a team workout between the regular season and postseason.
Chapman still attracted interest from a few league clubs, including the Padres and Marlins, despite the issues off the field and his diminished performance. Alvarez posted a video of the Fish’s private workout with him on Twitter. According to Craig Mish of the Miami Herald and Daniel lvarez-Montes of El Extrabase, they did not appear to make him an offer.
The Royals, on the other hand, will take a chance on Chapman and hope for a comeback. This is consistent with similar actions that the club has taken in the past, offering deals to seasoned pitchers in an effort to catch lightning in a bottle. In 2020, they signed Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal, and in the following year, they signed Wade Davis.
The Royals’ bullpen is no exception to their overall young roster. Amir Garrett and Scott Barlow are the only other players with more than four years of MLB service time, leaving Chapman as the only player with more than six years. They gain a veteran, but perhaps more importantly, a midseason trade candidate, from the new addition. Last year, the Royals won just 65 games and finished last in the American League Central. Chapman will likely be traded this summer for prospects if they have a similarly frustrating season this year. Chapman and Garrett provide the club with at least two lefties in the bullpen, and Richard Lovelady and Anthony Misiewicz extend the club’s southpaw rotation even further.
According to Roster Resource’s calculations, this deal brings the club’s expenditures to $89 million. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, that still falls far short of the club’s Opening Day total of $95 million and well short of their record high of $143 million. With general manager J.J. Picollo stating in November that the budget might be tight this winter, they could use some roster upgrades but might not spend much more.