Wakefield to keep knuckling along in Boston

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Torn up Monday was baseball’s one truly unique contract.
And, arguably, one of the most foolish.
In April 2005, a then 38-year-old Tim Wakefield made a deal with the Red Sox that gave the team a one-year, $4 million extension for 2006 and $4 million in perpetuity after that. The Red Sox had exercised those options religiously through 2009 and only hesitated on pulling the trigger for 2010 based on Wakefield’s recent back surgery.
So, the Red Sox and Wakefield got together for another incredibly amiable round of negotiations and came to a new agreement that gave the knuckleballer a multiyear deal for the first time since he wrapped up a three-year pact in 2005. Wakefield is guaranteed $3.5 million in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2011. He will earn $5.5 million next year if he makes 30 starts and $3.5 million in 2011 if he pitches 160 innings. So, if he stays healthy, he could beat the $8 million he would have earned had the Red Sox simply kept exercising their options.
Amazingly, the $5.5 million figure would be a career high salary if Wakefield could reach it. His previous high salary was $4.67 million, from the final year of that three-year deal that ended in 2005.
Wakefield has won 16 games four times in his career. He has 11 seasons in double figures in wins. He’s seventh among active pitchers with 189 wins and eighth with 1,979 strikeouts. Through all of that, he’s earned a mere $50.495 million, according to Baseball Reference data.
Now, sure, that should be enough to pay for a nice house and at least a year and a half at a decent university. But it’s less than the Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka ($51.111 million). It’s less than Darren Dreifort received in his five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers signed after 2000. He was 39-45 at that point and 9-15 from then on. It’s a small fraction of the $124 million that Mike Hampton has received while racking up 148 career wins.
The Red Sox have been accused of paying too much attention to the bottom line during Theo Epstein’s regime, but in this case, they appear to be rewarding a player whose loyalty has left him with a smaller wallet than he would have had otherwise. No, Wakefield was never a candidate for a $50 million deal — there’s just too much suspicion about that knuckler — but he should have been making at least $7 million-$8 million per year in his upper-30s. To give him some added security now was a nice gesture.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.