NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Could Aroldis Chapman soon return to the Bronx?
The Yankees are expected to pursue the flame-throwing closer when he becomes a free agent next week, the New York Post reported.
Chapman began this past season with the Yankees before being traded in late July to the Cubs, with whom he helped win a World Series.
The Yankees are in the market for a closer after Dellin Betances struggled in the role after Chapman and Andrew Miller were dealt away.
Chapman, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 105 mph, is expected to fetch $15 million to $18 million a year on the open market. Because Chapman was traded during the season, the Cubs cannot make him a $17.2 million qualifying offer, meaning whichever team signs him would not have to forfeit a draft pick.
Free agents can begin signing with teams Tuesday. They may speak to clubs now, but cannot discuss money.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman would not say Thursday night whether he plans to make a push for Chapman, but he did say acquiring pitching will be a high priority during the offseason.
“I would just tell you the areas we’d like to focus on clearly are pitching — bullpen and starting pitching,” Cashman told reporters at a benefit for the ALS Association’s Greater New York Chapter. “I think the biggest focus will be pitching, pitching, pitching.”
The Yankees acquired Chapman in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds last December. The Bronx Bombers then flipped him to the Cubs for three prospects and relief pitcher Adam Warren.
Chapman, 28, had a 1.55 ERA and 36 saves with the Yankees and Cubs this past season. He was suspended for the first 29 games of the year under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.
In the playoffs, he appeared in 13 games and had a 2-0 record, four saves and a 3.45 ERA, although he surrendered the tying run to the Indians in the eighth inning of Game 7.
On Thursday, Cashman spoke highly of Chapman and Miller, whom the Yankees traded to Cleveland but who is under contract for another year.
“Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they gave everything they had and then some,” Cashman said, according to NJ.com. “They went above and beyond on behalf of their teams,” Cashman said. “That’s a big reason why their teams were where they were and that they were all playing in Game 7. Very special, talented individuals that obviously earned the right to have a lot of accolades thrown their way, to be performing under that type of pressure.”
Before being traded, Chapman told reporters he was happy and comfortable with the Yankees and would like to re-sign with the team. However, it’s unclear if those feelings have changed any in the months since.
The other top closers available in free agency are the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen and the Nationals’ Mark Melancon, a former Yankee. Melancon, like Chapman, cannot be tendered a qualifying offer.