Aroldis Chapman, Reds Avoid Arbitration

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Not to hit baseballs. Quite the opposite, actually.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted out this morning that the Cincinnati Reds and closer Aroldis Chapman agreed to a 1-year, $5 million contract, avoiding the arbitration process and settling at the midpoint between the values that each party had extended to each other:

It is a good faith decision on behalf of both parties to come to the agreement. Chapman is certainly worth his $5.4 million asking price, and perhaps a good deal more. For comparison, he will earn less this season than Luke Hochevar ($5.21 million) and David Robertson ($5.215 million), and has out-earned both players in Wins Above Replacement combined the last two seasons.

In 2012, Chapman pitched 71.2 innings and struck out 122 batters (15.3 K/9). He had an ERA of 1.51, which was good for an ERA+ of 274, meaning he was nearly three times as good as the league average at preventing runs. In light of his sterling performance, Chapman received some down-ballot consideration for both the National League Cy Young and MVP awards, finishing 8th and 12th in voting, respectively*.

*Note: Surprisingly, this performance was only good enough for 2nd-best among relievers, due to Craig Kimbrel's 1.01 ERA and 3.3 WAR. Kimbrel finished 5th in Cy voting and 8th in MVP.

Last season, Chapman took a step back, which is to say he was slightly less Übermensch and simply really good. He pitched 63.2 innings and struck out 112 (15.8 K/9), but hitters managed to get around on him more; his walk rate jumped from 2.89 to 4.10 and his HR/FB went from 7.4% to 14.6%. He still managed a 2.54 ERA and 151 ERA+, though, and in a lot of ways last season might represent the delicate equilibrium of expectation for Chapman moving forward.

The Reds will certainly need him if they hope to compete in 2014 with the Pirates for the NL Central. In losing Shin-Soo Choo to free agency, Cincinnati lost its most productive hitter not named Joey Votto and lost nearly half of their Batting Runs Above Average (min. 100 PAs). Cincinnati will be relying more on their rotation, which looks fairly stacked with Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto.

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