Though he's 32 years old and would be entering an uncertain market, Aroldis Chapman is apparently locked in on opting out of his Yankees contract and exercising his player option to become a free agent after this season. Although he is owed $30 million dollars ($15 million AAV) over the next two seasons, the closer will likely look for a more lucrative deal on the open market.
According to Ken Rosenthal, a source close to Chapman says there is a 'one million percent' chance that he leaves his current deal and explores free agency, something that fellow closer Craig Kimbrel did this past offseason, leaving him unsigned until the 2019 campaign was already under way (though ultimately surpassing Chapman's guaranteed $30 million with $43 of his own).
Chapman has lights out stuff, and when he is on, there is no one better at closing games than he is. He has racked up 25 saves and a 2.46 ERA this season, and surely there will be a few teams ringing his phone to discuss a contract when he officially opts out at season's end. However, as Chapman's aged, he's come to rely on his slider more and more often, and it's lost a significant chunk of its effectiveness already in 2019. If this is what Chapman looks like at 32, he may be doing the Yankees a significant favor, freeing up money for other bullpen reinforcements (like free agent Dellin Betances) right as his regression hits.
The opt-out looming adds an interesting dynamic to the Yankees' trade deadline plan, as the availability of a Marcus Stroman and Ken Giles package (or Brad Hand and Trevor Bauer?) looks more appealing now than it did just a week ago.
Right now, the Yankees main focus is bringing a World Series to New York, and Chapman will be a key part of that dream coming to fruition. Once November hits, though, his Yankee tenure very well may be over.
And Chapman may become the latest marquee free agent to sit out a large chunk of the season to get what he wants.