The Royals are set to sign left-hander Aroldis Chapmanreports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Alfre Alvarez of Con Las Bases Llenas had previously reported that a deal was closed. Feinsand adds that Chapman will get $3.75MM on a one-year deal, plus performance bonuses. Alvarez adds that the bonuses could allow Chapman to earn as much as $4MM on top of his base salary.
Chapman, 35 in February, spent over a decade as one of the most feared closers in baseball but has slipped from those heights in the past couple of years. From 2010 to 2020, he made 563 appearances with the Reds, Cubs and Yankees, posting a 2.25 ERA while racking up 276 saves. His 11.5% walk rate in that time was certainly on the high side, but he paired that with an incredible 41.2% strikeout rate. Only Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen had more saves in that time and only Josh Hader bested him in terms of strikeout rate, minimum 100 innings pitched, though Hader didn’t debut until 2017 and did that over a much smaller sample.
In 2021, however, Chapman’s already shaky command seemed to get even worse, as he walked 15.6% of batters who came to the plate. He still posted a huge 39.9% strikeout rate but his 3.36 ERA was his highest in a season since 2011. Things got even worse last year as his walk rate jumped to 17.5% and he only struck out 26.9% of batters faced. That latter number was still above average but a huge drop from his previous form. When combined with the control issues, his ERA jumped to 4.46. His fastball, which used to average in the triple digits, dropped to an average of “just” 97.5 mph.
The issues with Chapman weren’t limited to his on-field performance either. He had already drawn the disapproval of many people in the baseball world years ago when a domestic violence allegation led to a 30-game suspension. More recently, he also drew the ire of many Yankee fans by missing time due to an infection from a tattoo. He then skipped a team workout between the regular season and postseason, leading the club to leave him off their playoff roster.
Despite the off-field issues and diminished performance, Chapman still drew interest from a few clubs around the league, including the Padres and Marlins. The Fish even held a private workout with him, with video shared by Alvarez on Twitter. However, they apparently didn’t make him an offer, per Craig Mish of the Miami Herald and Daniel Alvarez-Montes of El Extrabase.
Instead, it will be the Royals who take a chance on Chapman and hope for a return to form. This fits in with similar moves the club has made in recent years, giving deals to veteran hurlers in an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. They signed Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland going into 2020 and then Wade Davis the year after.
The Royals have a young roster overall and the bullpen is no exception. Chapman is now the only player with more than six years of MLB service time, while Amir Garrett and Scott Barlow are the only others with more than four. The new addition gives them a veteran but, perhaps more importantly, a midseason trade candidate. The Royals won just 65 games last year and finished in the bottom of the American League Central. If they endure a similarly frustrating campaign this year but Chapman is in good form, he’ll like be flipped this summer for prospects. Chapman and Garrett give the club at least a pair of lefties in the bullpen, with Richard Lovelady and Anthony Misiewicz also on hand to further stretch the club’s southpaw contingent.
More to come.