Former Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman joins the Royals in free agency

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven
World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven / Elsa/GettyImages

Without Aroldis Chapman, the Chicago Cubs may have come up short in 2016. Instead, the fire-balling left-hander dazzled after coming over from the Yankees and Joe Maddon ran him into the ground in pursuit of that coveted World Series championship.

Despite the Game 7 drama and some questionable misuse by Maddon, Chapman and the Cubs managed to end their 108-year title drought and that offseason, he returned to the Bronx in free agency, ending his brief run on the North Side. But things have trended downward for him in recent years, bottoming out in 2022 with a disastrous final go-round in the Big Apple.

Cubs need lefty relievers, but Aroldis Chapman wasn't the answer

We'll get into the specifics here in a second, but you know things are bad for a guy that once stood head and shoulders above other closers in the league has to settle for a one-year, $3.5 million pact with the Kansas City Royals in free agency.

It's nothing against the Royals, a team that lost 97 games last year, but it's safe to say Kansas City is a dramatic drop-off from New York. The fact this is where he wound up tells you all you need to know about Chapman's market which, for a plethora of reasons, seems to have been dismal this winter.

For starters, he's just not the overpowering presence he once was. A fastball velocity that once averaged north of 101 MPH barely cracked 97 MPH in 2022 and his strikeout rate plummeted to just 26.5 percent - the first time in his career it had fell below 32.9 percent. He walked 17.5 percent of hitters, to boot, demonstrating a total lack of effectiveness when Aaron Boone handed him the ball.

Multiple IL stints cost him a good chunk of the season and the cherry on top that sealed his fate with the Yankees was his skipping a mandatory team workout prior to the ALDS. Brian Cashman opted to leave him off the team's postseason roster and that, as they say, was that. Seven years, no World Series rings and the third-most saves in Yankees history.

To bring it full-circle, the Cubs are in dire need of left-handed relief - and have been connected to both Andrew Chafin and Matt Moore of late. Thankfully, in their search for a southpaw savior to pair with Brandon Hughes, they didn't look to the past in Chapman, who has demonstrated pretty thoroughly he's running on fumes at this point and is a liability, regardless.

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His checkered past off the field paired with a seeming inability to put away big league hitters seems to have sealed his fate. Thankfully, that led to him calling Kansas City home rather than returning to the Friendly Confines.