With the Chicago Cubs facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series, one obvious, but very legitimate, angle for discussion is the fact that Aroldis Chapman is closing for the Cubs and not the Dodgers.
You may recall that, last December, it was pretty much a given that the Cincinnati Reds were going to trade Chapman, who had established himself as among the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, and was set to be a free agent after 2016. The Reds weren’t going to be in contention, so cashing in on a huge trade chip made a lot of sense. They struck a deal with the Dodgers during the Winter Meetings for what seemed to be a very light return for the Reds … and then the deal fell apart. Why? The Dodgers caught wind of an alleged domestic violence incident involving Chapman and his girlfriend that had taken place a little over a month prior. It looked like the Reds were quickly trying to unload Chapman before that news came further to light, not only because of the ugliness involved, but also because Chapman faced a suspension under MLB’s domestic violence policy.
So, then, the deal fell through, it looked really shady for the Reds, Chapman was ultimately traded to the Yankees for a relative pittance, was then suspended, and you know the rest.
Were you ever curious, in light of those facts, why the Cubs didn’t make a move for Chapman when the deal with the Dodgers fell through? The price tag on that deal was fairly light, and it only got lighter after the deal was scuttled.
Well, according to Jon Heyman’s sources, it turns out that the Cubs were among a handful of teams that already knew about the alleged domestic violence incident at the time the Reds were negotiating with the Dodgers, and they were not willing to pursue Chapman vigorously at the time for that reason. It was only after Chapman “had only positive behavioral reviews in New York”, says Heyman, that the Cubs were willing to then trade for him.
That certainly all makes sense, and squares with what the Cubs’ front office said at the time they traded for Chapman in July.
The Dodgers aren’t hurting in the bullpen, necessarily, as Kenley Jansen is ridiculous, and they’ve had good production from their setup men this season. The Cubs, on the flip side, probably would have had some serious trouble in the second half and potentially in the playoffs without Chapman.
The Yankees, willing to take the biggest risk, probably made out the best in the whole situation, as their haul from the Cubs for Chapman, including one of the best prospects in baseball in Gleyber Torres, was far more substantial than what they gave up to get him. At the time, though, I would not have been comfortable with the Cubs making that trade, and it sounds like they weren’t comfortable either. By the time the trade actually happened in July, I still wasn’t 100% comfortable, but I thought the Cubs – and Chapman – handled things as well as they could have. And, since then, by all accounts, Chapman has been a good teammate and has had no off-the-field troubles.
I don’t think it’s quite an “all’s well that ends well,” but I appreciate getting the extra background information for context on the trades. Read Heyman’s full article for much more on how it all went down.