Starting today – five days after the end of the World Series – free agents are officially allowed to sign with any team in MLB.
The Cubs, if you recall, have seven out-going free agents (excluding David Ross, who is expected to retire), including none other than their biggest midseason acquisition, Aroldis Chapman.
Ever since the Cubs acquired Chapman from the Yankees just before the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline, pundits have been predicting a return to the Big Apple with some relatively believable confidence. The Yankees have the need, they have the money, and Chapman had nothing but effusive things to say about his time in New York.
You don’t too often see the fan-favorite trade-a-player during the season, sign-him-back after the season, but it does happen from time to time (Jason Hammel 2014-2015 with the Cubs), and Chapman figured to be one of the most likely candidates for such a move. So, with that said, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Yankees have already reached out to Chapman as they look to rebuild their dominant bullpen from 2016.
Indeed, this is no loose rumor or mere speculation. According to Mark Feinsand, the Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, mentioned that he has already reached out to Chapman’s agent, as the offseason kicked off with the general managers’ meetings this week.
Apparently, Cashman will be heavily focused on improving the Yankees’ pitching this offseason, both in the rotation and the bullpen. It’s not yet clear whether the Cubs will seriously pursue bringing back Chapman given the expected cost, but they too will be looking to improve in the bullpen and rotation. Chapman was very good for the Cubs in the second half, and there are obvious needs in the bullpen going forward, so we’ll see how that market shakes out. The Yankees, then, might be direct competitors with the Cubs this offseason.
Of course, the Cubs and the Yankees won’t be the only teams involved in the Chapman market, given his ability and the fact that he’s not tied to draft pick compensation.
You can read much more about Cashman’s offseason plans and targeting of Chapman here at NY Daily News.
If a team other than the Yankees plucks Chapman, they might quickly turn their attention to the other big free agent closers on the market, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon, who are also plausible Cubs targets.
We are still very early on in the offseason, but things might move more quickly than you’re used to, because the Cubs only just finished playing last week. So strap in, because the offseason is officially underway, and Aroldis Chapman might even be one of the first dominoes to fall.