Despite never being connected in any sort of rumors or reports, there was an obvious fit between the Chicago Cubs and seven-time All-Star Aroldis Chapman given the team's needs in the late innings. But instead of reuniting with their shutdown closer from the 2016 World Series championship club, the veteran is signing a one-year, $10.5 million pact with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Chapman, who turns 36 next month, joined the Texas Rangers via trade this summer and, between his time in the Lone Star State and Kansas City, he returned to form in a big way, with a monstrous 41.4% strikeout rate to go along with a 2.52 ERA in 61 appearances. He then went out to play a key role for Texas manager Bruce Bochy in October, with the Rangers winning their first-ever title last fall.
Without Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs' World Series drought may have very well stretched into the 2020s - or beyond
Of course, Cubs fans no doubt remember Chapman from that 2016 campaign, when he came over at the deadline in a blockbuster trade with the New York Yankees. Down the stretch, he was lights-out for Chicago, with a 0.82 FIP in 21 second-half appearances. Joe Maddon ran him ragged in the postseason, but there's no questioning how important he was to that team.
In Pittsburgh, Chapman will slot into a setup role ahead of the Pirates' All-Star closer David Bednar and, really, it's a no-lose situation for the Pirates. If they're in contention, they potentially have one of the best late-inning combos in the league. If not, the Bucs could flip Chapman the same way the Royals did last summer and net some young talent in return.
One would assume the Cubs have some forthcoming bullpen moves - but to this point, the team's biggest offseason relief addition is right-hander Yency Almonte, who came over from the Dodgers in the Michael Busch trade earlier this month. The club has a big need not only for some weapons in that pen, but specifically from the left side. With less than a month till spring training, we'll see how Jed Hoyer attacks that need.