Yankees Knew Exactly What They Were Doing When They Signed Aroldis Chapman

Make no mistake, if you think the 30 game suspension blindsided the New York Yankees in regards to Aroldis Chapman, you weren’t paying attention. Chapman, to his credit, did as good of a job in a situation where you have clearly done something wrong, as possible. He didn’t appeal, he didn’t deny, deny, deny, as we see so often with baseball players being accused of something with no evidence, and he didn’t make excuses. He clarified his situation, he apologized, he drew a line in the sand, he took his punishment, and sometime in early May, he will move on.

This is how negotiations work. This is how that trade worked. This is what the Yankees and (probably) Chapman expected. And New York is already prepared for it.

When the Yankees traded for Chapman they got him at significantly less value than the Red Sox did with Craig Kimbrel, it wasn’t because Brian Cashman was some expert negotiator who fleeces rebuilding teams on the few trade assets they have left. It was because of these allegations. The Yankees knew Chapman would miss time and they probably could have deduced he would miss a maximum of 40 games (since 45 days was the magic number in keeping Chapman an extra year). Had they been wrong and he missed more time with a suspension, he would have been under an extra year of team control. The Yankees wouldn’t had minded. Had they been right, they wanted fair value. Had they overestimated and he had a lesser suspension or shockingly, no suspension, they would have gotten a steal.

The Reds knew this, the Yankees knew this, we all felt it.

ChapmanThe suspension itself wasn’t all that unpredictable either. Rob Manfred knew he would have a battle with the Player’s Union if he exceeded around 40 games (in the off chance of some rainouts) and he knew he had to make Chapman an example as a player connected to Domestic Violence under a new Domestic Violence policy. So Chapman was never going to walk (and Jose Reyes is likely to get punished far more since he actually did physically harm someone) and he was never going to get a symbolic slap on the wrists either. That basically meant between 20-40 games. Manfred, likely knowing this, and seeing Chapman’s declaration he would appeal any suspension (something a person declaring innocence has to say), decided to probably threaten a 50 game suspension and challenging Chapman to call his bluff.

With a new policy, ambiguous facts, new scenery, Spring Training still on the line and a walk year, it would have harmed Chapman to keep this going more than Manfred and MLB’s image. So Manfred offered him a peace treaty of 30 games. It looks like Chapman and the Player’s Union won because the original suspension was “cut down”, it lets Chapman have free agency next year and it’s still a large enough punishment for MLB to look good.

Everyone won, except seemingly, the Yankees.

Except they won the second they had the rights to Aroldis Chapman and only had to surrender a 28-year-old journeyman and one top 10 prospect in a moderate farm system.

So that’s how we arrive at today. Chapman gets to finish his spring but not “rehab” in the minors. The Yankees go on with what was a top five bullpen anyway with Andrew Miller closing and Dellin Betances setting up and they get a good long look at their cast of high-end relievers in the minors through the month of April and into either Boston or Kansas City the beginning of May when Chapman is eligible to return. Chapman will come back immediately and throw a game or two in a non save situation and then all will be forgotten.

The Yankees knew this, they kept the arms (didn’t trade Miller) to deal with this and someone on that team is going to get an opportunity to become a fifth strong arm behind Chapman, Miller, Betances and Chasen Shreve, when Chapman does indeed return. And it might, in a worst case scenario, be a one game hedge. I think the Yankees, in 2016, are willing to sacrifice a loss or two in return for an entire season of arguably the best bullpen in the majors, sacrificing very little to assemble it and gain a pick going into next year or perhaps a slight discount to resign Chapman.

The Yankees don’t need to prepare for his absence because they were already prepared and built for it and have been since before Chapman ever came to New York in the first place.

 

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