While the New York Yankees have a very difficult decision to make when it comes to extending the face of their franchise, the choice should be much easier when it comes to extending the controversial figure who’s become the roster’s face in the eyes of many critics: just say no.
Over the weekend — and riding the coattails of the Aaron Judge Extension Confusion Bandwagon — Aroldis Chapman spoke to the media and noted the Yankees have yet to approach his camp about an extension.
Reading the tea leaves, this is likely because Chapman is 34 years old, long-term bullpen deals are largely a thing of the past, and the lefty has been on the mound for the theoretical end of the Bombers’ season twice since 2019.
Other than that, though, the Chapman Experience has been a dream worth extending infinitely.
New York already had a chance to sneak out of Chapman’s contract weeks after the Altuve Mini-Smile at the end of 2019, but instead decided to both extend him for three more seasons and pack in a no-trade clause.
If that adjustment didn’t make it obvious he wanted to be in New York long-term, Sunday’s conversation about his longevity certainly hammered the issue home.
Yankees Rumors: Closer Aroldis Chapman wants to return for 2023
After revealing the two camps hadn’t spoken at all about such things, Chapman stated:
"“Of course I would like to have the opportunity to sign another contract. Yeah, definitely,” Chapman said via the team’s Spanish interpreter. “At the same time, it’s one of those things that — it’s kind of out of my hands. I’m here today. I’m going to do my job and focus on that.”"
Yankee fans, eternally spoiled by Mariano Rivera’s consistent brilliance, will never fully appreciate Chapman’s contributions. He was brilliant in both 2018 and 2019, and in his other seasons, with ERAs in the low-3.00s, he still ranked among MLB’s top closers.
With his arrival came a certain stigma, though, due to a domestic violence incident resulting in a suspension at the start of the 2016 season, allowing the Yankees to trade for him at a tremendous discount. That connection to madness, as well as the expectations bred by the Rivera pipeline, has magnified his failures — though failing in the postseason does a pretty good job of magnifying itself.
The Yankees have drawn a hard line in the sand on previous contracts with aging players, and going anything more than year-to-year with a 35-year-old Chapman would fly in the face of their previously established set of norms.
Of course, acquiring Chapman in the first place did that, too. Expect Brian Cashman to move on and replace his closer internally this offseason, but considering the 2019 negotiations left us stunned, there could always be an unfortunate pivot.