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Aroldis Chapman decides not to opt out, will remain a Yankee  

Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees throws a pitch

Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees throws a pitch against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in Game 5 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Mike Stobe

The Yankees have a variety of needs to address this offseason.

Closer will not be one of them.

Though it came down to the wire, Aroldis Chapman did not exercise the opt-out clause in the five-year, $86 million contract he signed before the 2017 season. Had he triggered the opt-out, he would have become a free agent.

Instead, Chapman and the Yankees agreed to add a third year, worth $18 million, to the two years and $30 million left on his deal. A source confirmed an ESPN report early Sunday morning that first reported the new contract details.

"New York, I told you I wasn’t going anywhere!'' Chapman tweeted shortly after midnight.

The deadline for Chapman, 31, to exercise the opt-out was midnight Saturday.

Had he opted out, the Yankees almost assuredly would have extended him the one-year qualifying offer, which would have paid him $17.8 million in 2020. Chapman almost assuredly would have rejected it, which would have made him a free agent, but extending the qualifying offer would have ensured that the Yankees would receive a compensatory draft pick if he signed elsewhere.  

That the two sides reached an agreement was not a surprise, because he is a valuable member of the Yankees.

Though they could have turned closing duties over to Zack Britton, who was an elite closer for the Orioles, or gone with Tommy Kahnle or Chad Green, two pitchers whom many scouts believe could assume the role,  taking Chapman away from their bullpen would have hurt its overall depth.

As for Chapman, who posted a 2.21 ERA in 60 appearances  and recorded 37 saves in 2019, by all accounts, his preference has been to remain a Yankee. Insiders close to the reliever have long said he has loved his time in pinstripes.

Though Chapman's 2019 season could not have ended much worse — Jose Altuve sent the Astros to the World Series with  a walk-off two-run homer against Chapman in the bottom of the ninth inning  of ALCS Game 6, minutes after DJ LeMahieu had tied the score with a two-run homer —  it was one of the best seasons of a 10-year career that has been defined by consistency and durability.

Chapman has recorded 273 saves with a 2.23 ERA in his career, which started with the Reds in 2010, striking out 14.8 batters per nine innings. He’s been an All-Star six times, including this season.

Chapman, who struck out 85 batters in 57 innings in 2019, was presented the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award, given each year to the American League's top relief pitcher, before Game 4 of this year’s World Series.

“For me to receive this award is an honor because of how much it means to us relievers,” Chapman said. “This is my first time winning this award, but what makes it really special is having the opportunity to wear the same uniform and to pitch from the same mound as Mariano Rivera.”

After the ALCS loss, Chapman did not address the opt-out. “That’s a topic for another time,” he said. He did not stop to talk to reporters in Washington before Game 4 of the World Series after receiving the award from Rivera during a photo op.

In his season-ending news conference last week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman also steered clear of addressing the opt-out and what that would or could mean for the club's bullpen in 2020.

“I appreciate the question. It's a sensitive aspect of it,” Cashman said. “He has an opt-out — clearly, we all acknowledge that — and he'll have decisions to make. I don't think it's healthy for me to ultimately [talk about it]. That date is coming, and we'll see what happens between now and then or obviously at that date, and I don't want to speculate on alternative options when I currently don't have to. Don't think that's healthy to the process either. So I respectfully duck.”


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