The Marlins are among the teams with interest in Aroldis Chapman, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Miami becomes the first team known to have checked in on the seven-time All-Star reliever this offseason, though Heyman suggests there are multiple clubs in the mix.
While the Fish are apparently keeping an eye on Chapman, it’s not clear how strong their interest is. Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reported this afternoon the Marlins hadn’t put forth a formal offer. According to the Herald, Chapman is hoping to sign with a team in the relatively near future and has been working out in the Miami area, where he lives.
One of the sport’s best relievers for more than a decade, Chapman remained a valuable late-game arm as recently as 2021. He secured an All-Star nod that season and provided the Yankees with a 3.36 ERA through 56 1/3 innings. His walk and home run numbers were a bit alarming but the overall results were solid. New York trusted him enough to give him the ninth inning, where he saved 30 games in 34 attempts.
Had Chapman hit free agency coming off that season, he’d likely have been in line for a solid multi-year pact. The big southpaw had easily the worst season of his career in 2022, sending him to the open market with his value at a low ebb. Chapman posted a 4.46 ERA across 36 1/3 innings, the first year in which he’d allowed more than four earned runs per nine. He walked 17.5% of opposing hitters, the second-highest rate of his career and the loftiest clip of any reliever with 30+ innings pitched last year.
Chapman paired the abundance of free passes with the lowest strikeout percentage of his career. He fanned 26.9% of batters faced, the first time he’d punched out fewer than 30% of opponents. Even that diminished mark for Chapman was still firmly better than average, however. That’s also true of his fastball velocity. His heater sat at 97.5 MPH, a lower figure compared to his peak when he routinely averaged north of 100 MPH. Yet even that version of Chapman was among the sport’s hardest-throwing southpaws. New Philadelphia teammates Gregory Soto and José Alvarado were the game’s only lefties who topped Chapman in average fastball speed.
Given the quality of even the “lesser” stuff he’s brandishing, Chapman could certainly right the ship and reemerge as a quality high-leverage piece. His 2022 issues weren’t limited to his on-field inconsistency though. The 34-year-old (35 next month) had a pair of stints on the injured list. He missed time early in the year to Achilles tendinitis before a late-season injured list stint that arose when a tattoo got infected. That led to some frustration from Yankees brass, and New York left Chapman off their playoff rosters entirely after he didn’t report to a team workout shortly before the start of the postseason.
That certainly seemed to bring an unceremonious end to Chapman’s generally productive seven-year tenure in the Bronx. There was never much doubt he’d catch on elsewhere. Part of a left-handed relief class that has bizarrely lagged the rest of the free agent market, Chapman lingers in free agency alongside the likes of Andrew Chafin, Will Smith, Matt Moore and Brad Hand.
Jackson and Mish write that the Marlins are broadly surveying the market for potential relief help. The Herald reiterates the team’s previously-reported interest in former Cardinals closer Alex Reyes, who continues to work his way back from last May’s shoulder surgery. Jackson and Mish write that Reyes is hopeful of signing with Miami. He’d also be a high-risk upside flier considering his recent health history, though Reyes is far younger than Chapman and throws right-handed. The Fish already have a trio of southpaws — Tanner Scott, Steven Okert and Richard Bleier — locked into their bullpen, so they don’t necessarily have to narrow down targets based on handedness.