The New York Yankees are in the running for a top-tier closer, but which individual would better fit the mindset of the organization?
In 11 games pitched in Sept. and Oct., the 6’8″ right-hander surrendered 10 earned runs in 9.1 innings of work (9.64 ERA) while his opponents slash line (.279/.392/.372) was his highest line against in any month all season.
Additionally, his 13 surrendered runs in the month were the second-most among major league relievers behind Jeanmar Gomez of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Among starters and relievers, he ranked seventh which is downright terrible when you consider he pitched in 17.1 innings less than the starter ranked in front of him in runs.
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It may have been his 73 innings pitched (ranked ninth among AL relievers) catching up to him, but in order for the Yankees to make their bullpen a strong suit again, another reliever to throw into the mix is necessary.
Chapman, a former Yankee turned curse-breaker, is expecting to receive is looking for a contract in excess of $100 million, which would reasonably fall in the range of a six-to-seven-year, $105 million contract.
That’s $15 million a season but the real question is would gamble that much salary for an elite reliever expected to be elite as he’s been for seven years or so?
Now, for the record, there is no doubt Chapman is an enormous asset for any team. However, Spotrac estimates Melancon’s market value to be able to wheel in a contract in the range of three-years and $10.1 million per year, more than half of what flamethrowing Cuban is seeking — which could be an absolute bargain.
Since 2013, Melancon has maintained a 1.80 ERA compared to Chapman’s 1.93 while giving up three fewer home runs, 59 fewer walks and a higher strikeout to walk ratio in 48 more innings of work.
Melancon also comes up big when it matters the most. Since 2014 the former Yankees’ draft pick has not allowed a single earned run while maintaining an opponent’s slash line of .182/.250/.182.
Chapman’s 100+ m.p.h. velocity brought electricity to this year’s postseason, yet he surrendered six runs in 13 appearances including six walks and one huge home run — a game-tying bomb to Rajai Davis in game 7 of the World Series.
The third option is not an afterthought here, as Jansen is also what every manager wants in a closer but since the Los Angeles Dodgers offered him a qualifying offer, he will cost whichever team that signs him a draft pick.
However, when step back and compare all three, it’s hard to determine that Chapman’s asinine demands are worth it. Again, he is an elite door-slammer, but to justify the fact that he’ll likely double the salaries of the other two is quite the task.
In the chart above, the three are analogous in all of the categories but the one spot that Melancon leads is WPA or Win Probability Added.
This calculation by FanGraphs calculates the shift in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning. Be careful, though. WPA doesn’t decipher how well a player performed but how significant their performance was to the outcome of the contest.
Melancon led the trio in that category, is comparable in every other and has been an excellent model of consistency since 2013. While Chapman has also been excellent (don’t be mistaken: this is not meant to undermine his talents), his superiority in some aspects of the role should is not worth $50-60 million more than what Melancon’s salary is expected to be.
Plus, using the savings Cashman could have by passing on Chapman’s demands and pursuing Melancon, he could use the rest to create depth throughout the entirety of the bullpen unit.
For the cost of Chapman, he could go out and bring in the services of Melancon, Greg Holland, and possibly Boone Logan, which will contribute that consistency to the middle relief unit, a questionable unit from opening day to September in 2016.
Already locked with Tyler Clippard (2.49 ERA) for the 2017 season, those arms mixed in with Adam Warren, Tommy Layne and more to supplement the questionable rotation while improving winning odds more than Chapman could ever do.
Saving money in that category could also do well for other components of the team. There is an undeniable fact that the lineup — which finished second-to-last in average with runners in scoring position — could use some help, even now with the departure of Brian McCann.
It’s admittedly is fun to have a lights-out closer and nasty set-up man, but even the three-headed monster wasn’t beneficial when the offense, rotation and other relievers can’t get the job done.
In the end, Melancon’s lower salary comes with the ability to pursue improvements to other aspects of the team, which could lead to the presumption that the Yankees can make it past the Wild Card game for the first time since 2012.
What do you think fans? Would you rather see New York pursue Chapman or see them go after Jansen or Melancon for cheaper? Let your voice be heard in the comments below.
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