Aroldis Chapman: Is He Worth $100 Million?

Star closer Aroldis Chapman, fresh off a World Series title with the Chicago Cubs, is looking for a $100-million deal this offseason, according to NBC Sports. That would shatter the previous record for a relief pitcher’s total value of contract, which is currently held by Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal.

So, is Chapman really worth $100 million? If he got a $100-million deal, it would likely be something in the neighborhood of a seven-year, $105 million deal. That would put him at $15 million a season. But can you really rely on an elite relief pitcher to stay that good that long?

Aroldis Chapman pitches for the Cubs in the World Series.
Aroldis Chapman is setting his sights high by seeking a $100-million deal. [Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]

He certainly makes more sense for a contender. The only thing that would make him that valuable is being able to pitch him late in important October baseball games. While he was good most of the playoffs, his collapse in Game 7 of the World Series is a cautionary tale because relief pitchers can only be ridden so hard before they start to break down.

First, it’s important to look at Chapman’s WAR (wins above replacement) over the last several years. Since this stat measures, essentially, how many more wins a player is worth, it is a good measure of how much bang for your buck you’re getting with a particular player.

Chapman’s WAR by year, according to Baseball Reference:

  • 2012: 3.6
  • 2013: 2.0
  • 2014: 1.9
  • 2015: 2.7
  • 2016: 2.5

So, Chapman has been between 1.9 and 3.6 wins above replacement since he became a mainstay in 2012. That means, at $15 million a year, teams would be valuing him at about $4-7.5 million per win. Of course, that’s absurd. However, it doesn’t seem as absurd when you factor in the playoffs.

How much do you value a playoff win? Twice as much as a regular-season win? Three times as much? More? It’s hard to measure but having him in the bullpen surely helped the Cubs end the biggest championship drought in the history of North American sports. Why couldn’t he be that important for someone else?

The simple answer to the question of is Aroldis Chapman worth $100 million, is no. But nobody is. There is nobody you should be paying $7 million per additional win. Again, though, those are regular-season wins. If he is worth a couple of wins in the playoffs, he would be worth every penny.

Complicating his quest for a $100-milllion deal, though, is the fact Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon are also on the free agent market. Why would a team sign Chapman to an insane deal when they could sign one of the other two for a fraction of the price. Many look at Jansen as one of the game’s next great closers, so he won’t be cheap, but he surely won’t seek Chapman money.

Kenley Jansen pitches for the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Guys like Kenley Jansen could prevent Chapman from getting $100 million, because they will make a lot in their own right. [Image by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images]

Therefore, the contenders that are in the mix for Chapman have leverage over him and could say they will just sign one of the other top-level closers on the free-agent market.

It appears the Yankees and Dodgers are going to duel it out for his services because they are two teams with a ton of money, and they’re both competitive enough to hope he will be making an impact in October. Without any precedent set, it’s hard to believe either would give him $100 million over the life of his contract.

A lefty that throws 104 mph doesn’t come around every day. In fact, until Chapman, nobody on planet earth like that had come up. Certainly, the dazzling show he puts on every night factors into team’s decisions a little bit, but this decision should be made about baseball.

If a team thinks Chapman could help them win in October and potentially throw the last pitch for them in a World Series-clinching game, they might just have to consider inking Chapman to a league-shifting contract worth over $100 million.

[Featured Image by Mark J. Terrill/AP Images]