Aroldis Chapman has a big contract decision to make before next season. Fortunately, the Yankees will be fine no matter what their closer decides.
The Yankees are used to waiting for Aroldis Chapman to make big decisions on the mound. Every time he toes the rubber he makes a significant choice between whether to throw a blazing fastball or devastating slider. This offseason, the Cuban closer will have a very different choice to make.
His current contract with the team gives Chapman the chance to opt out of the deal at the conclusion of the 2019 regular season. Doing so would allow the talented southpaw to hit unrestricted free agency again, but it would also cause him to turn down more than $34 million in guaranteed money over the next two seasons.
Chapman’s immediate future with the Yankees became a pressing issue after Ken Rosenthal reported that a source close to the reliever claimed there was a “one million percent” chance he would opt out of the deal. The player quickly came out and denied the idea that any decision about his future has been made. Chapman insists that he hasn’t spoken to his agent about what might transpire in the offseason.
As usual, Brian Cashman has already made significant moves to protect his franchise against Chapman’s potential departure. His ability to opt-out was a big reason why the team elected to bring Zack Britton back into the fold with a big-money deal last winter. The franchise would prefer not to rely on the former Orioles closer to man the same role in the Bronx, but he certainly has the talent and experience inside the AL East to serve as Chapman’s successor.
That doesn’t mean the Yankees want to see Chapman exercise his right to reenter free agency. The franchise would be comfortable to keep their closer for another two years, even at a salary in excess of $17 million per season. That might be a slight overpay based on Craig Kimbrel’s cool foray into the open market this winter, but it’s a price the team can certainly afford.
Even if Chapman does elect to opt-out of his current deal, it’s very possible the Yankees could elect to sign him to a new, long-term contract. That might be the most likely outcome. Chapman seems to be comfortable pitching for a contender in the Bronx. It’s very possible he will push for a longer deal that will keep him in pinstripes for more than just two additional seasons. The declining velocity in Chapman’s fastball could easily cause him to seek career security this winter.
No matter what, the Yankees have the talent on the current roster and the payroll flexibility in the future to handle whatever choice Chapman makes. It’s an intriguing issue for fans to keep an eye on, but no outcome will give Cashman and his front office much trouble.