NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The largest reliever contract in baseball history is one the New York Yankees will regret. It is too long, for too much money, for the wrong guy and, in the long run, a mistake.
In 2017 and 2018, it might work well enough, as the Yankees genuflect to the "Golden State Warriors of baseball" and pursue a wild card. But that comes at too much of a long-term cost.
Signing Chapman for five years and $86 million is an "all-in" move. The Yankees, however, are an in-between team.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has a grand plan -- a pretty good one, I might add -- to build toward the franchise's next "uber" team by 2019. When the tide of the Yankees' young talent collides with one of the greatest free-agent classes in baseball history, the Yankees could form something special.
Although Chapman will be just 30 then, his fastball could decline, the flaws of his past might be exposed again, and the fragility of his role could diminish him. The Yankees could be ready by 2019 to challenge anyone atop baseball. By that point, when the Yankees might be prepared to take on the Red Sox for the division again, Chapman could be the wild card.
He has already been suspended by baseball for violating the domestic violence agreement. He has had his driver's license suspended for repeatedly refusing to obey the speed limit. And, although he is a big, strong guy, relievers constantly get hurt, and there is no reason to believe Chapman is immune.
Cashman wanted to keep the team's first-round pick, which he did by inking Chapman and not Kenley Jansen, whom the Yankees never seemed to have serious interest in, despite talking the possibility up. Cashman reasoned that signing Chapman made the team stronger and cost his club only money.
When you look back at how Cashman traded for Chapman out of the discount bin, which ultimately led to the team's picking up Chapman (save for his three months with the Cubs) and Gleyber Torres and reacquiring Adam Warren plus other prospects, it looks pretty shrewd -- putting aside the ethical dilemma Chapman posed.
The Yankees are trying to cut payroll to slide under or straddle just above the luxury tax bar in 2018. Chapman's contract, we must presume, will still allow them to reach this goal. However, when you want to work within a budget, paying $17.2 million for closer will eventually harm you.
Cashman said the Yankees need to be "bright" and "right," but with this move, they are committing too many years to a player who is not exactly a need right now. They have Dellin Betances, who has had three All-Star appearances in three seasons.
There is a theory that Betances could not handle the closer role because he struggled after Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded. That probably had more to do with Joe Girardi's running Betances into the ground than the pressure mounting on Betances' broad shoulders.
If Betances continues to excel the next three seasons, he will hit free agency after 2019 with Chapman having two years left on his deal. In theory, if Betances stays consistent, he would be due a contract at the same level as Chapman's. However, it will be too much to pay both relievers. This is a minor point at the moment, but it demonstrates how overpaying in years and money can come back to hurt a team in the future.
Given Cashman's past stance on paying closers big money, this seems like a strange move for him to make. Owner Hal Steinbrenner was "all-in" on wanting Chapman, so Cashman might have had a little nudge.
The money and the years matter if the Yankees are truly committed to having real budgets going forward. The only other reliever to receive a five-year deal in MLB history was B.J. Ryan in 2005 for $47.5 million. Ryan was released in the middle of his fourth season.
Toronto was desperate when it signed Ryan. The Yankees are not.
Here is another thing that might worry you if you are a Yankees fan: The Cubs' Theo Epstein is arguably the best baseball executive in the game, manning a team poised to be a dynasty. Epstein never even tried to re-sign Chapman. What does that tell you?