The Yankees are aggressively working to reacquire relief ace Aroldis Chapman, according to Jon Heyman. Heyman reports that the Yankees are willing to go as high as $80 million over five years for the lefty, while Chapman is seeking a six-year deal.
Paired once again with Dellin Betances, Chapman would give the Yankees an incredible combination at the end of games. Splitting time between the Bombers and the World Champion Cubs, Chapman had a 1.55 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 58 innings while saving 36 games in 39 chances. His gutty performance in the postseason was impressive, but left the left-hander looking exhausted, and with diminished velocity.
He also missed the first month of the year serving a suspension for terrorizing his girlfriend last October.
For better or worse, that has not diminished teams’ enthusiasm for his electric fastball, which tops 100 miles per hour with what would be monotonous regularity if his velocity were not so eye-popping. And, in fairness, while he has not really expressed any remorse for his actions that evening, has kept his nose clean since.
Regardless, talent tends to eventually trump behavior, in clubs’ calculus, and Chapman is the best reliever available on the free agent market. He will almost assuredly receive the biggest contract of any of them when the dust settles.
A six year deal for a reliever, like Chapman is seeking, is almost unprecedented due to how volatile reliever performance typically is. Even Mariano Rivera never signed more than four-year deal. Bruce Sutter did sign a six-year contract with the Braves in 1984 (which the club, by the way, finished paying off in 2014). It was a disaster. Shoulder problems limited him to just one full season in Atlanta and Sutter retired after 1988.
The five year deal Heyman reports the Yankees are offering would still be a record for relievers and carry pretty significant risk. But if any team has the financial resources to carry it, it’s the Yankees.