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Welcome to Pittsburgh, Aroldis Chapman

Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed left-handed relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman to a one-year, $10.5MM deal. Chapman, who turns 36 next month, is joining his 6th different Major League team.

Chapman played baseball in Cuba up until 2009 when he defected while the team was playing in a tournament in the Netherlands. He signed a six-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds for $30.25MM and made 13 appearances for the Reds AAA affiliate Louisville Bats before being promoted. On September 24, 2010, he threw the fastest pitch ever recognized by Major League Baseball at 105.8 mph against San Diego Padres' outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Between 2012-2015, he had at least 33 saves a season for the Reds and played in 3 All-Star games. During Chapman’s time in Cincinnati, he had several battles against the Pittsburgh Pirates, including hitting his soon to be teammate Andrew McCutchen up high with a 101mph fastball. In December of 2015, he was traded to the New York Yankees, ending his dominance in the Queen City. 

Chapman was suspended for the first 30-games of the 2016 season due to an off-season personal conduct policy violation related to domestic violence. He was traded later in the year to the Chicago Cubs and went on to help the Cubbies win a World Series. As a free agent in the off-season after winning a World Series, he signed back with the Yankees for 5-years and $86MM. At the time this was the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher. 

Chapman signed with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent in 2023 and was later traded to the Texas Rangers. He helped Texas win a World Series, the 2nd of his career.

Chapman does not hit triple digits like he used to, but still throws upper 90’s on a regular basis. With his three-quarters delivery, Chapman throws five pitches—a four-seam fastball that averages 99-100 mph, a slider averaging 87-88 mph, a splitter, a changeup and a sinker. 

With David Bednar already entrenched in the closing role, Chapman appears to be set to become the Bucs left-handed setup man in the 7th or 8th inning. Even though he is on the back nine of his career, Chapman still has electric stuff and will help the Pirates shorten games. He can have bouts of control issues and not be anywhere near the plate from time to time, but he is still a pitcher that batters do not want to face. 

The Pirates are saying all the right things this off-season. They believe they can compete for the division title and having Chapman and Bednar on the backend could be a way to steal some wins. If the Pirates fade away and are out of contention, look for the Pirates to get what they can for the veteran Chapman at the trade deadline.

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