Resurgent Chapman ready to help Rangers in relief

July 2nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON -- Aroldis Chapman is no stranger to a midseason trade. He’s been dealt at the Trade Deadline before, notably in 2016, when he joined the Cubs in their World Series run.

But when Chapman walked into the clubhouse at Globe Life Field after a June 30 deal sent him from Kansas City to Texas, he admitted it’s always a lot to take in when you’re traded.

“Everything's really fast and kind of crazy. I thank God that I’m here,” Chapman said through interpreter Raul Cardenas. “Everything went great over in Kansas City, I’ve had a pretty great year, and I’m thankful for it. I’m really content that this team is fighting for a position for the playoffs. I’m really, really happy and excited about it.”

Great may be an understatement for how well Chapman has performed in the first half. The 35-year-old went 4-2 with two saves and a 2.45 ERA in 31 relief appearances for the Royals this season.

It’s even more impressive considering his struggles last season. He posted a 2.25 ERA from 2012-21 before recording a 4.46 ERA in ‘22 with the Yankees. He didn’t appear in any postseason games for New York that season.

Chapman signed a one-year deal with the Royals this winter, and he appears to be back to form. In his resurgent year, Chapman has struck out 53 of 122 batters faced (43.4%), and he ranks among the top American League relievers in strikeouts (53), OPS against (.483) and batting average against (.158).

“We’re looking forward to having him,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “He just made us a better team, a better bullpen. … We've done a lot of research, going back to New York, and he got just out of sync, that’s the best way, I guess, I can put it. He was very determined to get back on track this year in Kansas City, and he's done that. And I think you're looking at special talent, obviously.”

Chapman has worked as a closer for pretty much his entire career, but the Royals used him as more of a set-up man in high leverage situations. He had just two saves to eight holds in 29 1/3 innings of work.

Rangers lefty Will Smith has worked as the Rangers' closer for the majority of this season, converting 14 of 15 save opportunities with a 2.73 ERA. The only Texas relievers other than Smith with a sub-4.00 ERA are Josh Sborz (2.43), Brock Burke (3.30) and rookie Grant Anderson (3.06).

By acquiring Chapman, the Rangers have more than enough high-leverage relievers down the stretch this season, but Bochy didn’t commit to the lefty being named the official closer in the near future.

“I think we’re going to use [Chapman] like the Royals used him,” Bochy said. “He can go the seventh inning, eighth inning. I think they even used him in the sixth. I've talked to [Smith]. He's still going to be closing games. If he needs a day off or something, Aroldis can do that, too. I just haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, so I won't go into it too much.”

The Rangers, for what it's worth, believe they’re getting a pitcher who is more the 2012-21 version of himself than the ‘22 version.

But after all that, does Chapman believe he has more to prove on the field at this point in his career?

“No, no,” he said.