It’s the morning after infamy.
Everyone associated with the Cincinnati Reds – from the owners, to the front office, to the players, and yes, the fans – has to be struggling with implications of Jeff PassanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (Yahoo) bombshell report last night about Aroldis Chapman and an allegation of domestic violence.
The incident occurred at the end of October. It involved the assertion that Chapman choked his girlfriend and fired his gun in an otherwise empty room. Based on the police report, we know Chapman denies the first part and admits the second. He was not arrested or charged by the police.
Unfortunately, the resolution by the criminal justice system is merely the beginning of the sad and troubling issue.
Did the Reds Know?
Separate from the question of whether Chapman is guilty of the allegations is how the Reds handled the situation. The worst-case scenario, indeed, would be if the Reds knew about the Chapman incident and were trying to trade the relief pitcher before the news broke. Alex Speier (Boston Globe) reported that the Red Sox learned of the incident in their background check during trade negotiations with the Reds in November. Did they inform the Reds what they learned? There’s nothing in the Globe report to indicate one way or the other.
The Reds have indicated they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know until yesterday.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tempting to assume the worst. The Reds’Ã‚Â silence regarding the Alfredo Simon case showed a regrettable lack of concern with the issue of domestic violence. Yes, they traded him. But sweeping the Simon issue under the plush green sod at GABP has cost them the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, it really is hard to believe the Reds knew. The simple fact is they could have traded Aroldis Chapman any time in the past few weeks. We know there were offers dating back to the GM meetings a couple weeks ago, likely before that. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to imagine the Reds waiting a minute longer than necessary to move Chapman once they learned of the incident. If it turns out otherwise, and the Reds were trying to pull a 105-mph fast one on other organizations, they aren’t worthy of our support.
Also (and this is patched together based on inference from rumors) it appears that the Reds could have approved the trade with the Dodgers earlier in the day. The Reds maintain the initial source of the delay was that it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t finished, not the domestic violence report. That makes sense considering sources from the Dodgers organization were indicating during the day that their impression was the deal was finalized. According to this timeline, it was later in the day when the disclosure of the report put the trade on hold.
The MLB Investigation
If you listened closely last night, amidst the groans of disappointment and the sounds of rending best-laid-plans, you could discern a sigh of relief from the Reds front office in Nashville. They quickly and correctly indicated the investigation and punishment of Chapman was now in the hands of MLB.
In August, Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed on sweeping new powers for the league to punish players found to be involved in domestic violence, sexual assault and/or child abuse. MLB has taken on the Chapman case.
A broad range of steps Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not just suspension Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is available to the league.
Players may be required to submit to psychological evaluations, attend counseling sessions, comply with court orders (including child support orders), relocate from a home shared with his partner, limit his interactions with his partner, relinquish all weapons, and other reasonable directives designed to promote the safety of the player’s partner, children, or victims. Players who fail to comply are subject to discipline from the Commissioner. All information is to be kept confidential. (emphasis added)
It may prove difficult for the league to punish Chapman. The incident was investigated by a dozen police officers. No charges were brought. No arrests were made. There was no physical evidence at the time. There will likely be no adverse witnesses against Chapman. On what would MLB base their suspension?
Yes, baseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new policy does allow the league to punish players regardless of whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime. But that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t explicitly address the situation where the player isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t charged with a crime at all.
Jose Reyes is the first player to be investigated under the new policy. Unlike the case with Chapman, Reyes was arrested and charged with abuse of a family member. Baseball hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t yet determined the extent of his discipline.
Whether they bare their teeth against Reyes and/or Chapman, you can bet MLB will be eager to show their new domestic violence policy has bite.
Given the wide range of actions available to the league, I expect them to focus their punitive approach to Chapman on the gun issue – because Chapman has admitted to that part of the story. Ordering counseling, turning over his guns and limiting Chapman’s contact with his ex-girlfriend would put the league on the most solid ground. The last thing they want is to lose an early case on appeal (see the NFL and Tom Brady).
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a safe bet that no trade will take place during MLBÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s investigation phase, although that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mandated by league policy. No team will be willing to take on Chapman until the league has ruled.
Even if Chapman is mostly exonerated Ã¢â‚¬â€œ punishment limited to guns issues Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the market for him has changed. The Dodgers can walk away from yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deal if they want to. It would be easy to understand them looking for other bullpen options. The Reds will have other suitors, offering their respective buckets of balls. If the price gets low enough, the Reds may eventually find a trade partner.
Even if Chapman is cleared, a trade may have to wait until Spring Training to put to rest concerns that Chapman hurt his pitching hand in the incident.
But if Chapman is disciplined severely by the league Ã¢â‚¬â€œ say, they reach the conclusion that Chapman did attempt to choke his girlfriend Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Chapman will become toxic and impossible to trade before he reaches free agency.
ChapmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Career Earnings and Service Time
The incident will have a profound effect on Aroldis ChapmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s baseball career earnings, whether or not heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s punished by MLB. Yes, America is a forgiving place and most people are given a second chance. As long as he can throw 100 mph, some team will hire Chapman.
But itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to see a front office agreeing to a long-term deal with a guy who goes into a room alone and shoots a gun eight times. That temperament doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t scream nine-figure contract.
BaseballÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new domestic violence policy does not come with a minimum or maximum suspension length. If the league decides to make an example out of Chapman and hits him with a long suspension, he may not play enough days for the Reds to reach six years of service time. (Jon Paul Morosi)
Chapman starts the 2016 season with 5 years, 34 days of MLB service time. Players must reach 6 full years of service time to become a free agent. A 50-game suspension would prevent that. Chapman would still be under RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ (or any trade partnerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s) control through 2017.
Considerations related to Aroldis Chapman will be put on hold for several weeks while MLB conducts its investigation.
Aroldis Chapman is just one player in the organization Ã¢â‚¬â€œ one the Reds werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t counting on in their 2016 plans anyhow. Yes, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a blow to not receive the prospects in return. But that possibility is now behind them.
The Reds front office has to pull up their stirrups, regroup and get on with the rest of their After Aroldis plans.