The Yankees totally overpaid to sign Aroldis Chapman, as they should have

In today’s game of baseball, overpaying for free agents is inevitable. If you want to sign your guy, you are going to make sure nobody outbids you in the process. Nowadays, it seems like every free agent is getting overpaid. Seven years and $161 million for Chris Davis? Eight years at $184 million for Jason Heyward? Seven years for $153 million for Jacoby Ellsbury? Sure, the Yankees overpaid Aroldis Chapman signing him to a five year deal worth $86 million, a deal that shattered the previous record for any relief pitcher. But the point is, they intended to overpay him. Resigning Chapman after dealing him to the World Series champion Chicago Cubs was a priority for Brian Cashman, and after getting it done, this is a signing that should be celebrated.
Photo Credit: Jerry Lai | USA TODAY Sports

Chapman inked a five year deal worth $86 million - an average annual value (AAV) of $17.2 million - with an opt out after year three of the deal. If the Cuban Missile is still dominating hitters as I anticipate he will be in three years, then he will likely opt out of the remaining two years of the deal following the 2019 season. But if he decides to ride out the final two years in pinstripes, his full no-trade clause from 2017-2019 turns into a limited no-trade clause, where he cannot be traded to any team on the west coast. So although this deal is great for Chapman, it is also a good deal for the Yankees as it actually gives them flexibility, and it did not cost them a draft pick.

Just before Chapman signed, the Giants made Mark Melancon the highest paid reliever for four years and $62 million, which had set the market for relief pitchers. And just after Chapman signed with the Yankees, the Dodgers went out and paid their guy Kenley Jansen, signing him for five years at $80 million. 

As pitchers who pitch anywhere between 50-70 innings per year, this seems crazy. But the ninth inning is a whole different animal, and these three guys are some of the best in the bigs. We saw Dellin Betances struggle to hold his own as a closer, and although he may have been able to make the adjustment, the Chapman signing was absolutely necessary. To get him, he were going to have to be paid in full. In the end, the Yankees paid to get the man they wanted, and the Dodgers paid to get their closer to return to LA. With Chapman and Jansen being two of the best in the business, their contract values should come as a surprise to no one, as they earned the right to ask for five years, and almost twice as much as the previous record for any relief pitcher.

Obviously, Chapman is the most intimidating pitcher in baseball. With a fastball that routinely touches triple digits and a World Series ring to his name, Chapman was going to get paid this offseason. And if it was not the Yankees who paid him, some other team such as the Dodgers or Marlins, would have paid Chapman. But the Yankees made a point to resign their guy, and in signing Chapman, it is a mission accomplished for the Yankees.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

No one should be caught up in the fact that the Yankees “overpaid” Chapman; everyone gets overpaid. That’s why Ellsbury is making $153 million, and Bryce Harper may end up making over $400 million some day. It seems crazy, but it’s the way the market has taken the game of baseball. In a money-driven industry, players are getting paid in numbers never seen before. This is a trend that isn’t changing, and it is why you will continue seeing guys getting paid ridiculous amounts of money. As a matter of fact, it is only a matter of time before another closer comes around and breaks Chapman’s record of being the highest paid relief pitcher in MLB history.

The Yankees were able to spend upwards of $17 million a year on a relief pitcher in large part due to payroll flexibility with Mark Teixeira coming entirely off the books, and a large part of Brian McCann’s contract being paid by the Astros. And with CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, possibly Masahiro Tanaka, and a few others coming off the payroll in next season, and a few others in the coming years, the Yankees are still in prime position to go nuts with the 2018-2019 free agency class, which is going to be incredible. With names like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, Dallas Keuchel, and many others, the Yankees are set up to dominate free agency as they will likely be way under the luxury tax threshold heading into that offseason.

Until then, Chapman is one piece to the puzzle, and he will be holding down the ninth inning for the next three to five years, leading into another possible Yankee dynasty.

Article by: Chad Raines


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