Not that long ago, the idea of the KC Royals acquiring Aroldis Chapman was laughable. Chapman was a relief pitcher so effective and elite that he commanded contracts the likes of which Kansas City might never pay a reliever, such as the$85 million deal he signed with the Yankees in 2017 and the $48 million extension they gave him before the first deal expired.
And the Royals really haven't needed a closer of Chapman's stature since their World Series runs of 2014 and 2015. They've failed to post a winning record and haven't finished close to postseason play
since: teams like that don't require great closers (although Scott Barlow is awfully good and may well become great).
Circumstances change, though, and have. The notion of the Royals landing free agent Chapman isn't so improbable anymore. He's been without a baseball home since free agency opened up after the World Series, but MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link) that Kansas City is one of three clubs interested in him.
But should the Royals pursue the 13-year veteran who's saved 315 games?
Signing Aroldis Chapman is something the KC Royals don't need to do.
Kansas City shouldn't spend time trying to land Chapman, or make him a Royal even if he's willing to pitch for a non-contender, something he hasn't done for a long time.
Instead, several factors weigh against bringing Chapman aboard.
His performance last season is one. Pitching 43 times for the Yankees, he went 4-4 (the four losses tied for the most he's ever suffered in the majors) but posted the worst (-0.2) WAR of his career and finished with a 1.431 WHIP, 10.65 SO/9, 4.46 ERA, 88 ERA+ and 4.57 FIP, all career-worst marks. His 6.94 BB/9 was the second worst of his career and mirrored the control troubles that too frequently haunt him. And although health issues (an Achilles problem and leg infection combined to force him out of major league action for almost two months) certainly didn't help, those numbers are concerning for a hurler who'll celebrate his 35th birthday during spring training.
Then there are non-pitching matters the Royals will likely consider. Major League Baseball suspended Chapman for 30 games in 2016 for violating its Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy after investigating allegations that he'd choked his girlfriend and fired eight shots at his home.
And just last season, he missed a mandatory pre-American League Division Series workout and didn't get to pitch in the playoffs.
While those incidents won't prevent Chapman from pitching for someone in 2023, and he'll likely sign before long, the Royals might prefer to find a player free of such issues.
And money? Although Chapman could and probably will be expensive, he's likely affordable even for Kansas City for a season or two. But just because they can fit him into their budget doesn't mean the Royals should spend on Chapman: the club is full of relievers and has a pretty good closer in Barlow. So, if they're willing to write a big check, someone else's name, like an excellent hitter's, ought to be on it.
Kansas City shouldn't pursue Aroldis Chapman.