Pirates sign Aroldis Chapman to 1-year deal

January 31st, 2024

The Pirates’ bullpen entered the offseason as arguably the club's greatest strength, and now they’ve bolstered it further, signing reliever to a one-year deal, the club announced. The contract is expected to be worth $10.5 million, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, though the team did not disclose the terms. 

In 2022, Chapman tallied a 4.46 ERA in just 43 games with the Yankees -- the highest ERA he’s had in a 162-game season in the fewest appearances since his rookie year. But he entered free agency this offseason following a strong season in '23, when he had a 3.09 ERA in the regular season before allowing just two runs in eight postseason innings in the Rangers’ march towards a World Series championship.

Chapman, 35, signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Royals last offseason and had a 2.45 ERA in 31 games with Kansas City before being shipped to Texas at the end of June in the first move of the Deadline season. While Chapman likely isn’t a closer at this stage in his career (he’s only had 15 regular-season saves over the last two seasons), he still has a fastball that averages 99.5 mph (99th percentile) and finished last year in the 100th percentile in whiff and strikeout rate.

With those numbers, Chapman figures to slot into a late innings role for Pittsburgh beside closer David Bednar and setup relievers Colin Holderman, Carmen Mlodzinski and Ryan Borucki, among other options.

The biggest knock on Chapman at this point in his career is his command and control. He’s had a walk rate above 14.5 percent in each of his past three seasons and finished last year with 36 walks in 58 1/3 innings.

This was Chapman’s third foray into free agency. He signed a five year, $86 million contract with the Yankees in December 2016 (which was the largest contract for a reliever at the time), then signed the aforementioned deal with the Royals last offseason. His best season with the Yankees came in 2019 when he had a 2.21 ERA with 37 saves in 57 innings.

The Pirates entered the offseason needing to address their starting rotation, which they have done with the acquisitions of Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales, but the back-end of the group is still a bit thin. Having a deeper bullpen group is another way to bridge the gap from the sixth through ninth innings with leads intact.

Chapman’s $10.5 million is substantial, as it marks the second-highest salary on the Pirates this season behind Bryan Reynolds, who will make just north of $13 million as part of his eight-year, $106.75 million extension, which began in 2023.