The Pittsburgh Pirates already have an All-Star closer on their roster.
Pittsburgh’s own David Bednar is coming off of a season in which he posted a 2.00 ERA and was named a National League All-Star for the second-consecutive season.
To help support Bednar and make a strength of the team even stronger, the Pirates went out and signed veteran left-hander and seven-time All-Star Aroldis Chapman to a one-year, $10.5 million contract.
Chapman was in Pittsburgh to take his physical before meeting with members of the media over Zoom. While in Pittsburgh, he got a chance to talk with his new bullpen mate in Bednar.
“We got to chat a little bit,” Chapman said through translator Melissa Stroza. “What it left me with was wanting to get down to spring training so we can really kind of delve into things and get to spend more time with each other, chat some more, catch up. I think it’s going to be a really nice experience working in that bullpen with him.”
Chapman and Bednar give the Pirates one of the more formidable bullpen duos in the National League, if not all of baseball.
For the majority of both of their careers, they’ve worked as closing pitchers. It doesn’t appear that Bednar is losing his closer status, and that’s perfectly fine with the soon-to-be 36-year-old Chapman.
“I’m flexible and I know that there’s a closer here and a very good one at that,” he said. “I’ll just stress that there is a very good closer so I am very flexible and I just want to help the team out, so wherever they see fit to put me, I’m willing to help out.”
While Bednar experienced the best statistical season of his brief Pittsburgh Pirates’ career, Chapman turned back the clock and had quite a season himself.
The big left-hander split the year between the Kansas City Royals and World Series-champion Texas Rangers. Between the two teams Chapman went 6-5 with a 3.09 ERA and six saves. He totaled 103 strikeouts in 58.1 innings, a pace of 15.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Chapman also averaged 99.6 mph on his fastball last year, his highest since 2017. He averaged 88.1 mph on his slider, his highest mark since 2016.
It was a down year for Chapman with the New York Yankees in 2022, and he did everything he could to not have a repeat showing in 2023.
“Just work and dedication, I was working with a trainer,” Chapman explained. “I had a tough season in New York. After that, I kind of wanted to turn that ship around, so I really worked hard with this trainer in the offseason to improve and see better results.”
Chapman’s deal with the Pirates came as a surprise to many — myself included.
At this stage in his career, the expectation was that Chapman would sign with a more clear contender. But one of the reasons for his decision to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates was due to the potential he sees.
“First of all, one of the most important things was there was good negotiation and very good communication. And for me ultimately coming to the Pirates, it’s a young team and they seem really thirsty to win and I’m an athlete who likes to compete. So being here with a team who really wants to get in this division race and start winning was good for me.”
With Bednar and Chapman anchoring the back of the bullpen, maybe the Pirates can lean on the duo to carry them all the way back to the postseason.