Aroldis Chapman Acquired by Yankees in Five-Year Deal


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Aroldis Chapman pitching for the Yankees on July 18. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs later that month.

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Yankees fulfilled the main objective of the off-season late Wednesday night, agreeing with closer Aroldis Chapman on a five-year, $86 million contract. The deal reunited the Yankees with the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball after they traded him to the Chicago Cubs last July.

The deal was confirmed by a person briefed on the agreement who requested anonymity because the deal had not been completed. Chapman must pass a physical to make it official.

“I love the organization,” Chapman told ESPN’s Marly Rivera, adding that he chose the Yankees over the Miami Marlins. “They welcomed me with open arms and that’s why I decided to go back. I was hoping I had a chance to go back and it happened. Every player dreams of being a Yankee, and if they don’t it’s because they never got the chance.”

Chapman, who turns 29 in February, becomes the highest-paid reliever in major league history. His $17.2 million annual salary surpasses the $15.5 million salary the San Francisco Giants gave Mark Melancon in their four-year deal on Monday. The Yankees had also negotiated with the other elite closer on the free agent market, Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but preferred Chapman all along.

Earlier Wednesday at the winter meetings here, General Manager Brian Cashman said Chapman had two advantages over Jansen: He had already succeeded in New York and would not cause the Yankees to lose their first-round draft pick if they signed him.

After serving a suspension under baseball’s domestic violence policy, Chapman joined the Yankees last May and converted 20 saves in 21 chances, with a 2.01 E.R.A. and 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He cut his E.R.A. by a run with the Cubs while fanning 15.5 per nine innings. Though Chapman wobbled at times in the postseason, he still helped the Cubs win a championship.

Chapman has by far the hardest fastball in the majors, averaging 100.4 miles per hour, according to Fangraphs. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings last season, Chapman’s fastball speed was 2.4 miles per hour faster than the next best average, which belonged to the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard.

The Yankees acquired Chapman in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds last January, dealing second-tier prospects because of the domestic violence episode, for which he was ultimately not charged. Chapman was well-liked and productive for the Yankees, who wanted him back for the same reason they first got him: to team with Dellin Betances and bolster a pitching staff with an uncertain rotation.

Last season began with yet another dominant reliever in the mix, the left-hander Andrew Miller, who was dealt to the Cleveland Indians in July. The trades for Chapman and Miller significantly strengthened the Yankees’ farm system, positioning them — at least in theory — for long-term success.

In the meantime, the Yankees are not giving up the notion of contending in 2017. They missed the playoffs last season for the third time in four years, but managed an 84-78 record while integrating young players into the lineup. The Chapman move followed an agreement with the veteran Matt Holliday on a one-year, $13 million deal to be the primary designated hitter.

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