The Royals have agreed to a one-year deal with hard-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman, sources told MLB.com on Thursday. The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical that should happen in the coming days.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported the deal is expected to be worth $3.75 million with performance bonuses. Kansas City will be banking on a turnaround from Chapman, who was known for his consistent triple-digit velocity earlier in his career.
But the 2022 season was a miserable one for the seven-time All-Star. Chapman, who will be 35 on Opening Day, recorded some of the worst stats of his 13-year career and was blemished by multiple injured-list stints as well as questions regarding his willingness to be a team player.
Although Chapman began the year with 12 scoreless appearances, that was followed by a stretch in May when he allowed at least one run in six consecutive games. Chapman was placed on the 15-day IL with left Achilles tendinitis on May 24 and missed the next six weeks, effectively losing his role as the Yanks’ closer to 2022 All-Star Clay Holmes.
Chapman made another trip to the IL in August due to a leg infection stemming from a tattoo.
He returned from that three-week absence to finish the regular season well, but he was held off the team’s ALDS roster after missing a mandatory team workout without an acceptable excuse.
Chapman also comes with history off the field. He was suspended 30 games in 2016 under Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy after allegedly choking his then 22-year-old girlfriend and firing eight shots in the garage of his Florida home. No charges were filed, and he has pitched for the Yankees and the Cubs since then.
Chapman’s average four-seam fastball velocity dipped to a career-low 97.5 mph last season, and that contributed to his worst marks in strikeout rate (26.9%) and swinging-strike rate (12.7%). His 17.5% walk rate was the second highest of his career, while his 4.46 ERA was his worst by nearly a full run.
Chapman finished the season with nine saves, his fewest during a full season since 2011. His 315 career saves rank 24th in AL/NL history and are the third most among active pitchers, trailing only Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel.
Chapman still drew interest from a few clubs around the league, including the Royals, the Padres and the Marlins. Kansas City targeted bullpen help this offseason after the unit ranked fourth worst in the Majors in ERA (4.66) last season and last in WHIP (1.48).
The Royals have signed low-risk relievers to Minor League deals, like Nick Wittgren, but Chapman is the first Major League bullpen acquisition this winter. He will head to Kansas City as a veteran arm in a relatively young bullpen. Scott Barlow will return as the Royals’ closer, but the rest of the roles, from middle relief to back-end arms, are wide open heading into Spring Training.
Chapman also gives the Royals a potential midseason trade candidate if he returns to form.