The Texas Rangers, who have emerged as one of the most dominant teams in the majors this season, pulled off the first major trade of the summer on Friday, snagging perennial All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman from the Kansas City Royals.
Cole Ragans, a 25-year-old starting pitcher, and Roni Cabrera, a 17-year-old outfielder, were acquired from the Royals in exchange.
Chapman, a free agent at season’s end, will join fellow lefty Will Smith and right-hander Josh Sborz in the back end of the Rangers’ bullpen, forming a devastating mix late in games. The Rangers’ bullpen ranks 24th in the majors in ERA, but Smith and Sborz have combined for a 2.71 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 4.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Chapman, 35, posted a 2.45 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 20 walks in 29 1/3 innings in his first season with the Royals and was expected to be one of the most highly coveted relievers before the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The Rangers got a leg up on the competition by aggressively pursuing him more than a month in advance, fortifying a team that boasts a 49-32 record and a plus-157 run-differential while in first place in the American League West.
A towering left-hander with one of the most electrifying fastballs in the game’s history, Chapman established himself as one of the sport’s best closers from 2012 to 2019, posting a 2.10 ERA while collecting 272 saves and striking out more than 15 batters per nine innings.
But Chapman was also suspended 30 games by Major League Baseball in 2016 over an alleged domestic violence incident in which he was accused of choking his girlfriend. He acknowledged to police that he fired eight shots from a handgun in his garage during the incident.
Chapman’s six-plus-year stint with the New York Yankees ended with him skipping a mandatory workout before the 2022 American League Division Series and then being left off the postseason roster. The incident put a sour end on a two-year stretch that saw his ERA increase to 3.79 and his walk rate balloon to 16.4%, the highest in the majors among those who made at least 100 appearances from 2021 to 2022.
“I won’t get into specifics, but I will say we did a very extensive amount of background work,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “We’re very comfortable with the person and certainly the player.”
Chapman was then forced to sign a one-year, $3.75 million contract with a Royals team that was clearly in a rebuilding phase. His walk rate didn’t get much better in Kansas City, but his fastball and sinker ventured into the triple digits on a more regular basis and his slider got some of its life back, prompting opposing hitters to slug just .188 against him.
“I think what we’re seeing is a pitcher who is really back to the way he pitched a couple of years ago,” Young said. “The fastball’s electric. He’s really, really tough to hit. We think he fits a need in our bullpen in terms of a swing and miss and being able to pitch leverage at the back of the bullpen.”
In Ragans, a former first-round pick, the Royals received a controllable left-hander who struggled through a 5.92 ERA in 24 1/3 major league innings this season but could slot into their rotation for the foreseeable future. Cabrera slashed .247/.361/.407 in 52 games at the Rangers’ Dominican Summer League these last two years.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Rangers get closer Aroldis Chapman in trade with royals