After seeing the importance of having a shutdown closer in the postseason, the Cubs will be looking to secure one of the top three closers on the market in Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon. After hitting the disabled list with a triceps issue in August, Hector Rondon didn’t look the same upon his return. Rondon might return to being the player he was before his injury next year, but that’s a gamble. Carl Edwards Jr. looks like he could assume the role of closer, but without a full season of closing experience, it would be a risky bet to move forward with him as the closer. Instead of acquiring a bullpen arm at the deadline next year, the Cubs have the ability to lock down one of the top closers in the game without having to surrender any prospects.
The man that we’re all familiar with. Chapman is likely to get a five-year deal, somewhere around the $100 million range. He will be entering next year as a 29-year-old, so a five-year deal would presumably take him to the end of his prime. Chapman posted a 1.01 ERA for the Cubs last season in 28 appearances, striking out 15.5 per nine innings with 16 saves.
While Chapman’s velocity from the left side is enamoring, it is inevitably going to decline. Relief pitchers’ velocity starts to sharply decline after their age-30 season, making Chapman a prime candidate for regression during the life of his contract. The question that remains is whether or not he can still be effective if he sits in the upper 90s, instead of consistently hitting triple digits.
In addition to the fear of a decline in velocity, Chapman comes with significant off-field baggage. The front office has shown a knack for acquiring high-character players, and many feel that Chapman doesn’t meet that title. Furthermore, Chapman has publicly stated that he doesn’t like to pitch multiple innings, which was evident throughout the season and in the playoffs. Chapman was one of the key reasons for the Cubs winning the World Series last year, but I think that he has seen his final days in a Cubs uniform.
Jansen turned in his best year as a pro last year, with a 1.83 ERA, 47 saves and a 0.670 WHIP, while striking out 13.6 per nine. Jansen will enter next season as a 29-year-old, meaning that a five-year contract would control him through his age-33 season. Jansen is a converted catcher, meaning that he has considerably less mileage on his arm than Melancon and Chapman, making him the best bet to stay healthy through the life of his contract.
In addition to the fantastic regular season that Jansen had, we all saw what he was capable of in the playoffs. Jansen’s ability to effectively pitch multiple innings was a large reason for the Dodger’s success in the playoffs. I see Jansen as the bet bet to live up to the expectations of a five-year contract, as he possesses both the movement and velocity to remain successful. Jansen comes with a qualifying offer attached to him, but I would bet that the Cubs would be just fine surrendering their first round pick to add one of the top closers in the game. Jansen will fetch a similar contract to Chapman, landing somewhere in the five-year, $95 million range.
Over the past three years, the three closers have posted these numbers.
Player A: 105 SVs, 1.72 ERA, 1.46 FIP, and a 0.96 WHIP.
Player B: 126 SVs, 2.29 ERA, 1.73 FIP, and a 0.86 WHIP.
Player C: 131 SVs, 1.94 ERA, 2.45 FIP, and a 0.90 WHIP.
Player A is Chapman, player B is Jansen, and player C is Melancon. Without adding the K/9 numbers for each player, their numbers look fairly equal. While Melancon will be entering next season as a 32-year-old, he has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s pitched 219 innings over the past three seasons, leading the league in saves during that time, converting 93 percent of his save opportunities.
Melancon is nearly three years older than both Chapman and Jansen, but he will be considerably cheaper than the two. He has a history of being a successful reliever in the NL Central, and like Chapman, he doesn’t have a QO attached to him. Melancon had Tommy John surgery in 2007, but he hasn’t missed a considerable amount of time since then. I believe Melancon will be the first of the three closers to sign, and he’ll command somewhere in the neighborhood of four years and $54 million, briefly holding the record for the largest contract ever signed by a reliever before Jansen and Chapman ink their deals.
Which closer do you hope to see in a Cubs uniform next year?