Ruminations on the Chapman Trade

downloadI waited for a few days to write this piece because I wanted to process my thoughts and feelings. As most of you are aware, I am a Rays fan but I do try to be objective in my analysis. I may not always succeed, but I try. I have no doubt many of you will call me out if I fail, and I thank you for it. (Just be nice, okay?) I did not want this piece to come off as a bitter fan because a rival, the Yankees, traded for a player and it made them better. After all, the Red Sox, an equally disliked rival, traded for Craig Kimbrel and while I wasn’t exactly excited, I didn’t feel the deal was, for lack of a better word, “dirty.” The Kimbrel trade was perfectly fair and baseball life went on. I also do not want to be a hypocrite. My favorite team had a known rapist, Josh Lueke, pitch for them. There’s no moral high ground here.

I asked myself this question–if the Padres, Rangers, Mariners or any other team I feel neutral towards had completed the Aroldis Chapman deal, would I feel the same? If the Rays had done this deal, would I feel the same? The answer is yes. I would feel the deal was somehow dirty. Not right. It would feel wrong. (Actually, if the Rays had completed this deal, I would have been livid.)

On December 6th, the Dodgers were reported to be making progress with the Reds on a deal for Aroldis Chapman. The prospect package was rumored to be considerable per Ken Rosenthal. The next day was insane as news broke that the deal was put on hold due to police reports that on October 30th, Aroldis Chapman choked his girlfriend and then fired gunshots in his garage  while she hid in the bushes following an argument in Davie, Fl.  Their 4 month old daughter was in the house; she was unharmed. No charges were filed “due to conflicting reports and uncooperative witnesses” and “no physical injuries.” Folks, please make sure you get bruised if you’re ever beaten. Video evidence is the gold standard.

MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre weighed in on the matter on December 8th, stating that Major League Baseball was not aware of the matter prior to Monday evening. Does that shock anyone else? How does this not hit anyone’s radar sooner? Interestingly, the Red Sox considered trading for Chapman but their own background check back in November revealed this information, and the Sox subsequently acquired Kimbrel on 11/13. Ethically, should they have disclosed the information to the Reds or MLB when they learned of it? It’s rumored they may have been responsible for the leak in December. Per Torre, baseball will take its time investigating the matter (surprise, surprise) although MLB is hoping for a resolution by spring. The lack of charges will not be a factor in the decision. MLB’s domestic violence policy does not require charges to be filed to dole out punishment. Coincidentally on the same date, the police declare the case closed.

The winter meetings begin. The deal appears off with the Dodgers, and the rumor mill swirls again. Might the Dodgers trade with the Yankees for Andrew Miller? The Astros, also rumored suitors for Chapman, also shy away.

Rosenthal and Morosi write on December 10th that the Reds are still actively shopping Chapman for a smaller return just to get him off their hands even though he is still under investigation. Any team willing to trade for him will have to deal with the public relations fall-out. Why risk it? As Rosenthal writes:

“A lengthy suspension could result in an extra year of team control over Chapman, who currently is on track to accrue the necessary six years of service by the end of the 2016 season.”

No team was on the radar at this point.

There was silence on Aroldis Chapman between December 10th and December 28th. Should teams be permitted to make trades for players under investigation? Is it fair to penalize the Reds? Is it fair that another team benefit?

Then on December 28th, the news broke. The Yankees stunned the baseball world. Aroldis Chapman was going to wear pinstripes in exchange for four prospects: third baseman Eric Jagielo, second baseman Tony Renda, and right handers Rookie Davis and Caleb Cathem. [Pro-tip: if you play in a dynasty league, don’t rush to pick up these prospects.]

The public relations condemnation has been swift and severe. Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito of the Bronx stated she was “very disturbed” and added that the team “was condoning this type of violence when you bring him on to be part of the team.” Like a subject in a fugue the message is repeated over and over in baseball: if you play well enough, we don’t care about anything else.

The Yankees already had a fantastic bullpen by any measure. This trade does not address their weakness, which is starting pitching. Sure, it makes baseball sense in a vacuum and you can never be too good. But morally, how do the Yankees reconcile this? The Red Sox and Dodgers wouldn’t touch this guy. The Yankees turned Alex Rodriguez into a social pariah for using performance enhancing drugs–they would not even market his home run records in 2015 and turned the whole thing into a joke–yet they trade for an actual social pariah. On a human level, it makes zero sense. Aroldis Chapman is not worthy of standing on the same mound that Mariano Rivera stood upon. But hey, at least he’s clean shaven.

I understand feeling awful about a player on your team. Nobody felt worse about a player on their rooting interest than I did when Josh Lueke, again known rapist, played for the Rays, and that was the Rays taking advantage of a player’s reputation and past to sign him inexpensively. I rooted against him because I knew the more he was awful, the sooner he would be gone. He was an expendable pitcher which actually made me angrier–pitchers like him are easy to get, even for a team with limited resources like the Rays. Why did they dumpster dive for a replacement caliber pitcher with that kind of baggage? Chapman is immensely talented and not as easily disposable. At the same time, the Yankees have great resources and did not need to exploit the system and sully their reputation. They didn’t need Chapman. They wanted him.

As an aside–Andrew Friedman, former Executive VP of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Rays and current President of Baseball Operations of the Dodgers is a common factor in both the Lueke and Chapman decisions. Does Dodger financial flexibility allow for better public relations and/or moral choices? Was he overruled by ownership in either or both cases? If not, I would love to know how Friedman could justify Lueke but condemn Chapman. I know he was not the sole decision maker in either decision, but that is some serious cognitive dissonance.

Finally, I’d like to clarify that this is not a criticism of you, as a fan, if you root for the Yankees and continue to root for them. If we only rooted for teams based on the number of saints on the team, we’d root for no one. We have complicated relationships with our teams, and I am no one to judge.

35 thoughts on “Ruminations on the Chapman Trade

    • Is it enough of a questionable act to make you call out your team?
      Being a semi-casual game-goer-toer, and not a specific team rooter, it would be for me. I quit going to Rays games when they signed Lueke, and let them know why. I would like to think that I would have done the same if I was a Rays fan. Probably.
      Since, IIRC, this isn’t the first extremely questionable incident for young Mr. Chapman, I’m pretty sure that my allegiance to the team would have some definite waver (if I were a Yankees fan).

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      • In my opinion, yes. While I won’t go so far as to say the Yanks trading for him “condones” his actions, it’d be nice to see them condemn it. You [The Yanks] could easily say this was done as a baseball decision and that the real life implications are another matter (they won’t, but you could).

        I’m going to feel very different come the 9th inning this year…

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      • If it were the Orioles that made this move, I’d show up to Opening Day with protest signs. It’s disgusting to profit off the abuse of others, which is basically what happened here. The Yankees saw an opportunity to get a good player on the cheap as a result of domestic violence allegations and jumped at the chance. To make it worse, they are secretly actively rooting for the allegations to be true so they can further profit with an additional year of control. It’s disgusting. The reason they went after A-Rod so hard was financially motivated. And the same motivations here cause them to be gigantic hippocrates, and it’s embarrassing and pathetic. I’ve lost the little respect I’ve had for this organization. I don’t begrudge their fans, I actually feel for them, but as far as the organization, management, and ownership is concerned, they can go fuck themselves.

        Liked by 2 people

        • This is why I would have been livid if it was the Rays. After Lueke, it would be the Rays saying to me once and for all, “we don’t care about women.” I don’t know if I could have remained a fan.

          Liked by 1 person

        • There was an incident during Lueke’s time on the team when a player in their minor league system mistreated a woman and bragged about it on social media. I wrote to Joe Maddon. I wrote to Evan Longoria, pleading to him as the father of a newborn daughter. I wrote to the organization. I don’t know how many others wrote but I cannot believe I was the only one outraged. Several days later, he was suspended indefinitely. Maybe it’s naive want to believe we, the public, made a difference.

          Liked by 1 person

      • they are secretly actively rooting for the allegations to be true so they can further profit with an additional year of control.

        [citation needed]

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      • At this point, I think it’d be naive to believe that the Yankees are not hoping for a suspension that’s just long enough to buy them another year of Chapman. They will never admit it, but why would anyone make this move if they were so offended by what he’s accused of?

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      • They make this move because it was dirt cheap in terms of cost. And there’s a huge difference between assuming they are hoping for a suspension and outright accusing them of it.

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    • I relate to this somewhat post-Tavares and the season-long patches in St. Louis. I know the Cards as a team tried to step up alcohol-driving awareness; I don’t know how thorough or how successful it was.

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  1. I doubt if Friedman suddenly got religion when he moved over to the sunset side. I think it’s more likely that he or his overlords nixed the Chapman trade because they thought he might wind up with a long suspension to start the season, and they felt they needed boolpen help badly enough not to take the risk. It was probably just baseball realpolitik in its usual baseline dynamic.

    Meanwhile, I was thinking of asking my neighborhood santera to immolate a chicken for me in hopes that LaBas will arrange for Lueke to take a comebacker to the nuts.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I seriously doubt that the Red Sox or Dodgers balked at trading for Chapman on moral grounds. These are baseball teams, run by people that generally exhibit no moral character whatsoever while doing so (e.g. screwing over all minor league players, doing everything they can to limit player movement and avoid a truly free market for players, lying to teen poverty-stricken teenagers so they their billion dollar owners can save a couple of million dollars, lying to cities to extort money to build stadiums, continuing to only hire white guys, cronyism, nepotism, etc., etc., etc.).

    It is far more likely that those teams backed out because they were worried about a suspension or the effect an investigation may have on Chapman’s performance. In other words, those decisions were very likely also baseball moves and nothing more.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I guess the most likely other possibility is that they teams didn’t want to take the PR hit. Essentially, I don’t think the teams cared….but they could care that some fans would care….because, you know, dollars.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think he’s getting suspended. Teams were probably only afraid of legal proceedings. Once the police announced he wasn’t being prosecuted, I think they knew it was safe to sign him.

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      • Rumors from “sources” (of course) are that he is looking at 20-25 games.

        Remember the crazy Kimbrel deal? There were reports that the Red Sox offered that package for Chapman but the Reds wanted MORE….so they moved on. There is plenty of evidence that it may have been simply a baseball decision for them…but the timing of their offer, their interest, and their discovery of the incident are not clear.

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        • During my research, a lot of sources indicated that the Red Sox discovered the incident in November. The Red Sox are well known for thoroughly vetting and investigating players.

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        • Right. What I mean is, it isn’t clear if they made offers for Chapman only before they knew, only after then knew, or before and after they knew.

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        • Don’t get me wrong. I think it was a business decision too. I don’t think the Red Sox were altruistic but I don’t think an offer was ever on the table. What I think happened is the Red Sox quickly realized on 11/12 with their private investigation that Chapman was not going to meet their immediate relief needs. The police case on that date was still open. The risk was too great.

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      • At “worst,” he’s not likely to get a long suspension. Sherman at the NY Post said any suspension is likely to be so short it won’t affect his service time. (Per Paper’s post, that would be 45 days or less.)

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  3. I don’t understand the Reds in this situation if that’s the best offer on the table walk away let him start the year with you serve whatever suspension there is to serve and trade him to a contender at deadline.

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    • I think the Reds, who wanted to deal him anyways, were simply sick of him and tired of incident after incident and just wanted to wash their hands of him at any cost. At this point they probably would have done better by letting him walk and getting a compensation pick, but that would have meant being stuck with him for even longer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post and good comments. As a recovering Dodgers fan, I thought I saw another element in the deal falling apart – the LAD already have a Cuban problem child with talent to burn and attitude to match.

    My own team, the Angels, have made more mistakes recently than positive moves and they came close to breaking my connection with the team over the Josh Hamilton affair. Not because Josh was in the right, or any longer a great player. I was disappointed that he wasn’t treated like a human being with a very specific personal frailty, and instead like an abomination. I’m glad the Angels didn’t bite on Chapman, because then I’d no longer have a team.

    It somehow seems from afar that it is appropriate that the NYY, hated by so many for so long and for so many good reasons, were the team to take Chapman. If any body can take the PR hit, it would be the Yankees, who somehow came off as the recalcitrant child after the ARod affair. Who’da thunk anybody could look worse than Alex, a year ago? Apparently, the NYY.

    While not a conspiracy theorist I do think the outcome was decided before the deal. Whether the Yankees want the longer suspension for the extra control or shorter suspension so they can trade Miller or Betances I don’t know – but I feel the Yankees know, or they wouldn’t have taken the trade. Which brings us back to the question! I asked my friend the Yankees fan if she could still root for them after this trade. Jury is still out for her. Thanks, Inda.

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  5. Adrian Peterson has been successful on the field this year and therefore his return is said to be a heartwarming redemption story and that it was time for all of us to “move on”. If Chapman is successful on the field I predict the same will happen in New York, but only if he’s successful on the field, otherwise it will remain to be seen as disgraceful opportunism. Motivated reasoning is nowhere more prevalent than in sports fandom. The Yankee PR side and player analytics side got together and decided that it was more likely to turn out to be the former than the latter. Not to worry. Multi million dollar entertainment organizations do not become multi million dollar entertainment organizations without understanding such things.

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  6. Pingback: Prosecutors Decline to Charge Chapman | Hardball Conversations

  7. Pingback: So, What Did I Miss? Deep Thoughts, Jack Handey Edition. (5/21/16) | Fan Interference

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