A recent tweet by Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Segura suggested that the Yankees made an offer to Aroldis Chapman that was in excess of $54 million. Considering that the Cuban fireballer signed with the Cincinnati Reds for $30 million, Segura’s claim was met by more than a few raised eyebrows.
Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra, who is also a lawyer, offered a logical framework for why the rumored Yankees’ offer was likely embellished or even a fabrication. However, I am inclined to believe there is more than a grain of truth to Segura’s claim because it’s the only reasonable explanation for why the team didn’t make a stronger push for Chapman.
If quality lefthanders are a valuable commodity, ones who can throw over 100 mph are the proverbial mother lode…a Holy Grail in fact. At the time the Reds announced the signing, the Yankees’ relative lack of interest was more than a little perplexing. After all, it’s not like the Yankees were caught off guard. The team hosted Chapman as a guest at game 6 of the 2009 World Series and its scouts were in attendance at the lefty’s open audition on December 15. Despite this early involvement, however, several reports claimed that the Yankees never even went so far as to make an offer.
After failing miserably with high profile international free agents like Jose Contreras and Kei Igawa, it’s not hard to see why the Yankees would be cautious in their pursuit of Chapman, but to not even make an offer to a 22-year old lefthander who tops out at 104 mph seems like an extreme form of risk aversion. Quite frankly, that’s not how the team does (or should do) business, so it was very hard to believe the Yankees simply decided to pass. Offering $24 million more than the next highest bid would obviously have been imprudent, but not even making an offer seems incompetent. For the Yankees sake, it would be better off it the former proves to be true.
It’s ridiculous to criticize the Yankees for not spending enough money, but that doesn’t justify being penny wise and pound foolish. At $30 million over six years, Chapman was not an absurd financial risk. What’s more, after the exorbitant contracts handed out to middle relievers, Chapman’s contract now looks like relative bargain, even if his permanent role remains as a setup man. Just consider that Yankees will be paying Rafael Soriano $35 million for only three years, and had to surrender a draft pick for the honor. Signing Chapman instead of Soriano would have not only saved the team about $10 million per season (when you factor in the luxury tax hit), but also given them another viable rotation candidate in a best case scenario.
As more details emerge, it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds. Regardless of the facts, however, one mystery will always remain. Either Chapman, or his agents, inexplicably turned down a boatload of money from the Yankees, or the team inexplicably decided to not offer him one. Neither scenario makes much sense.