Posted on November 27, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
In a free agent market full of outstanding relief pitchers, the one who stands out above the rest is Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman, who began the 2016 season as a member of the New York Yankees and finished it a member of the world champion Chicago Cubs. The Yankees are known to be one of a few teams in pursuit of Chapman this offseason, and recent reports indicate that the Washington Nationals have now joined the list of teams contending for Chapman’s services.
Washington’s involvement with Chapman should not come as a surprise, as the Nationals did pursue him in trade talks with the Yankees over the summer. However, the Nationals were unwilling the match what the Cubs traded away in order to acquire Chapman. Instead, the Nationals traded for Mark Melancon, who became the team’s closer late in the season. Melancon is another one of the top closers hitting the free agent market this winter, but Washington’s top target appears to be Chapman.
Many are also expecting the Nationals to be aggressive this offseason, as they attempt to make a big splash. This kind of approach would definitely put Chapman on their radar. The Nationals have quite a few competent setup men in their bullpen, including Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley, and Blake Treinen, but the team isn’t necessarily counting on any of those three to step up and be their closer in 2017. The Nationals will almost certainly sign a closer this offseason, and with their window to chase a championship potentially closing in the next couple of years, they will likely be shopping at the top of the market.
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Of course, signing Chapman will be easier said than done. The price for him is expected to be quite high in terms of both money and years. That price could potentially climb higher than expected with several notable teams after him. In addition to the Nationals and Yankees, both the Dodgers and Giants are among the known suitors for Chapman. All four are teams that will have no problem opening up their checkbook for the right player.
It may be too soon to start predicting where Chapman may end up signing, but the Yankees may have a leg up over the rest of the teams in pursuit. Chapman has expressed his interest in returning to the Bronx, while the Yankees have also said they would be interested in a reunion despite only having Chapman for a few months.
With several notable teams interested in signing him, particularly the Yankees, Chapman may actually have a chance to reach his supposed goal of signing a $100 million contract. The competition for him should be fierce and is likely to pick up at the winter meetings in early December. The Nationals appear poised to make a serious run at him, although the teams in pursuit of Chapman would be wise to recognize that there are several other competent closers on the market. Nevertheless, Chapman appears to be the closer so many teams covet the most.