New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman opted for a contract extension instead of free agency, agreeing Saturday to a deal that will keep him with the Yankees through the 2022 season, sources told ESPN.
Chapman, 31, could have opted out of the final two years of his contract with the Yankees and become a free agent this winter. Instead, the Yankees agreed to add another year for $18 million to the end of the next two years, which were due to pay him $30 million.
Between the questionable market for closers and his comfort with the Yankees, Chapman made it clear that staying in New York was his preference. After beginning his career with the Cincinnati Reds, he debuted with the Yankees in 2016 following a suspension for a domestic incident, was traded to the Chicago Cubs that summer, won a World Series and returned to New York on a five-year, $86 million deal that included the opt-out.
Since reaching the major leagues with Cincinnati in 2010, Chapman has turned in one of the great 10-year stretches by a closer. Nobody in baseball history has a higher strikeout rate than Chapman’s 14.8 batters per nine innings, and his numbers nearly match those of his two finest contemporaries, Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
What happened to Kimbrel over the winter certainly informed Chapman’s decision. Originally seeking a six-year deal, Kimbrel remained a free agent until he signed a three-year, $43 million deal with the Cubs in early June. Jansen, who had an opt-out clause this winter, declined it and will receive $38 million over the next two seasons.
Chapman was better than both of them this season, striking out 85 in 57 innings, recording 37 saves and posting a 2.21 ERA. Although he allowed only three home runs during the regular season and posted the sixth-lowest home run rate among pitchers with at least 50 innings, the last pitch he threw in 2019 was Jose Altuve’s walk-off homer that clinched the American League pennant for the Houston Astros.
The Yankees will return one of the deepest bullpens in baseball by keeping Chapman, along with Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green. New York hopes to add a frontline starter and is expected to be among the teams chasing Gerrit Cole, the top free agent in the 2019-20 class.
With Chapman off the market, a thin relief class gets even thinner. Among the top relievers this winter: left-handers Will Smith and Drew Pomeranz and right-handers Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Dellin Betances, Joe Smith, Chris Martin and Steve Cishek.
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