Yesterday afternoon MLB announced Aroldis Chapman has been suspended 30 games under the league’s collectively bargained domestic violence policy following the October incident at his home. The suspension itself was not a surprise. We just had no idea how long it would be because he’s the first player to be suspended under the policy. There was no precedent. Anyway, I have some thoughts.
1. This is much larger than Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees in the grand scheme of things. A 30-game suspension seems fair to me — I was expecting a shorter ban and I’m glad the league was able to come down harder than I expected because I am generally anti-hurt people — and it sets a tough precedent for the league. Chapman was not arrested, he was not charged with a crime, and there was a lack of physical evidence. The league was still able to suspend him for a month while getting cooperation from Chapman and no fight from the MLBPA. That’s good. A shorter suspension would have been viewed as a slap on the wrist and anything longer likely would have been met with resistance from the union, especially since Chapman’s service time and impending free agency would have been a factor. Thirty games sorta represents the best case scenario for players involved in a domestic dispute. No arrest, no charges, cooperate with investigators, and you’re still getting 30 games. This domestic violence policy has some teeth.
2. The suspension will end up costing Chapman a little under $1.86M in salary and I’d like to see the Yankees do something positive with that money, specifically donate it to charity. Alex Rodriguez‘s home run milestone bonus was donated to charity and domestic violence is about a billion times worse than performance-enhancing drugs. Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation is the obvious fit here. Safe at Home’s mission statement is “educating to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives,” and the Yankees are still very involved with the foundation. Several current and former players attend the gala each year and help raise money. If the Yankees would rather split that $1.86M up among several charities, great. That works too. The Chapman trade came with a lot of backlash — Brian Cashman admitted they swung the deal because the price dropped after Chapman’s incident became public, ewww — and that backlash is not going away because of the suspension. Between this and Lonn Trost telling poor people they don’t belong in premium seats, the Yankees aren’t exactly swimming in positive PR these days. Donating the money to a worthy cause would be a good first step towards salvaging an otherwise ugly situation. A little compassion goes a long way. Don’t put the money back into the roster and in the name of all that is holy don’t just pocket it.
3. Okay, let’s change gears and focus on the on-field aspect of the suspension. Per the terms of the ban, Chapman will be allowed to play in Spring Training — my guess is the Yankees don’t send him on any road trips, the reception might not be so pretty — but not minor league tune-up games once the season begins. That probably won’t be that big a deal. Chapman will be able to work out at the Tampa complex to stay sharp, and once the suspension nears its conclusion, he can pitch in Extended Spring Training games to get some innings in. Those aren’t official minor league games, so I assume this is doable. If not, simulated games will have to do. It’s not ideal but this isn’t a major problem. Chapman’s a reliever. He’s not a hitter who needs to find his rhythm at the plate or a starter who needs to get stretched out. I’m also curious to see how Joe Girardi handles him once the suspension is over. Does Chapman jump right into the closer’s role, or does Girardi ease him back into game action with one or two middle relief appearances before giving him the ninth inning? I guess it depends what the rest of the bullpen looks like at the time.
4. Once Chapman returns, I hope Girardi uses him heavily and gets as many innings out of him as possible. I know Girardi goes to great lengths to make sure his relievers are fresh and that’s great, but I say throw all that out the window with Chapman. Give him the ol’ Scott Proctor treatment. Make him the bullpen version of CC Sabathia on the 2008 Brewers. Chapman just turned 28 over the weekend and the guy is 6-foot-4 and 215 lbs. with the physique of a Greek god. The guy is built to last. This is almost certainly a one-and-done situation — all indications are the Yankees will let him walk as a free agent next offseason — so the Yankees have no long-term investment here. Give him a heavy workload — a 30-game suspension means he’ll still be available for 132 games, so get 65-ish innings out of him — and take advantage of the no stings attached elite reliever. Callous? Yes. So be it. Treat Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances with care and let Chapman be the workhorse, then let some other team deal with the aftermath. I don’t think the Girardi and the Yankees will actually do this, mind you. I’m just saying I hope they do.
5. The Yankees came into Spring Training with three open bullpen spots and now it’s four. Miller and Betances are more than fine in the late innings, and Ivan Nova will be the long man assuming everyone in the rotation makes it through camp in one piece. (That’s a big assumption, I know.) My guess right now, a few hours before the Yankees play their first Grapefruit League game, is those four open bullpen spots go to Chasen Shreve, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, and Jacob Lindgren. Shreve gets the first crack at being The Seventh Inning Guy™ based on last year’s overall body of work while Mitchell, a starter by trade, gets an opportunity to show whether he can replace Adam Warren as the Swiss Army Reliever who can go three pitches or three innings depending on the team’s needs that day. The other two guys get the “only when losing” innings out of the gate. The Yankees have a ton of relief candidates in camp and that’s good. They’ll need all of ’em at some point this year. Those four are my picks for the open bullpen spots based on what we know right now.