The Kansas City Royals went into the offseason aiming to add bullpen help. Ideally, they wanted a back-end closer-caliber relief pitcher to bolster their relief corps.
Their search led them to Aroldis Chapman, a former World Series champion who was once viewed as an elite closer. He has also garnered attention for high-profile off-field incidents.
The Royals and Chapman reached an agreement on a one-year deal that will pay Chapman $3.75 million plus performance bonuses according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. Chapman became a free agent after parts of seven seasons with the New York Yankees.
A left-hander Chapman, 34, earned seven All-Star appearances in his 13 seasons in Major League Baseball. One of the hardest-throwing pitchers in MLB history, Chapman has seen a drop-off in his effectiveness in recent seasons with the Yankees.
Chapman’s tenure with the Yankees ended abruptly and unceremoniously with him having been left off the postseason roster. The Yankees left him off the roster after he missed a mandatory team workout and stayed at his home in Miami, supposedly disgruntled about how his season unfolded — including a demotion from the closer role.
Dating back to 2008, Chapman has thrown more pitches of 103 miles per hour or greater than any pitcher in the majors. From 2014-17, his average four-seam fastball velocity eclipsed 100 mph, including an average of 101.6 mph in 2016 when he helped the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
In 667 career appearances (640 innings), Chapman compiled a 2.48 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP, 3.29-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 14.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and 315 saves. He registered 30 games or more eight times since 2012.
A dominant force for a period of his career, Chapman was an All-Star from 2012-2015, 2018, 2019 and 2021. He also garnered the 2019 AL Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award as well as a selection to the All-MLB Team.
Last season, Chapman posted a 4.46 ERA in 43 appearances (36 1/3 innings) with a 1.43 WHIP, a 1.54-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 10.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and nine saves.
He posted an average four-seam fastball velocity of 97.5 mph, though he had an average velocity on his sinker of 100.2 mph (just 34 pitches thrown).
Chapman didn’t allow a run through his first 12 appearances of 2022, but he allowed six runs in seven appearances (5 2/3 innings) in May before he went on the injured list with tendinitis in his left Achilles tendon.
After a rehab assignment, Chapman returned to the Yankees in July. He went on the IL again in August for an infection as a result of a tattoo.
Chapman also struggled with mechanical issues and command throughout the season after his fast start. His 6.94 walks per 9 innings were his highest since 2011, and he posted a walk rate of 6.07 per 9 innings in 2021.
In 2016, Chapman became the first player suspended under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy.
He received a 30-game suspension to start the season following an incident where he allegedly choked his girlfriend and fired eight shots in the garage of his Florida home — though prosecutors decided not to prosecute and cited conflicting accounts and insufficient evidence.
If Chapman is healthy and able to throw with consistent control, he potentially bolsters a bullpen that has leaned heavily on closer Scott Barlow in recent seasons.
In 2022, Barlow made a team-high 69 appearances and also led the club’s relievers in wins (seven), innings pitched (74 1/3), ERA (2.18), strikeouts (77), batters faced (290) and saves (24). He was the lone reliever in the majors with at least 70 innings, 20 saves and 5 wins. He recorded nine saves of four outs or more, the most in the majors.
If Chapman remains an option to close games, it also bolsters the overall depth of a relief unit that includes right-handed options Taylor Clarke, Dylan Coleman, Jose Cuas, Carlos Hernandez, Collin Snider, Josh Staumont and Barlow, as well as left-handers Amir Garrett, Richard Lovelady and Anthony Misiewicz.
Garrett and Chapman were teammates in the Cincinnati Reds organization where both began their big-league careers.
Left-hander Jake Brentz will continue his rehab from elbow surgery at the beginning of the season. The Royals could also choose to convert starting pitchers who don’t make the rotation to relievers.