(CBS) Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke with closer Aroldis Chapman and let him address his off-the-field issues prior to acquiring him in a blockbuster trade with the Yankees on Monday, Epstein said.
Chapman was suspended for 30 games to start the season under MLB’s domestic violence policy after an incident with his girlfriend last October in which he fired a gun in a garage. Charges weren’t pressed in the case, but it gave some teams pause about acquiring Chapman — including the Dodgers, who were nearing a deal to acquire Chapman from the Reds at the Winter Meetings in the offseason before learning of the details of the incident.
On Monday morning, Ricketts and Epstein had a phone conversation with Chapman about his past after receiving permission from the Yankees and league office to do so. Chapman allayed their worries after the Cubs described their expectations.
“The trade was contingent on that conversation,” Epstein said. “If we had not been satisfied with what we heard from Aroldis, we would not have moved forward … Aroldis was really heartfelt.”
The Cubs took Chapman’s past issues — which also include multiple speeding violations and driving on a suspended license — into account, Epstein said.
“We gave that serious, thoughtful, careful consideration over an extended period of time,” Epstein said. “We take the issue of character very seriously and continue to. Obviously, we take the issue of domestic violence very seriously. So it was our responsibility to look into this thoroughly and to look at all the facts. Again, we understand there will be lots of different perspectives on this, that there will be lots of strong feelings about this and that people are going to feel differently about that. And we understand, and we respect that.
“In the end, it was our decision, and we decided it was appropriate to trade for a player who has accepted his discipline, who has been already disciplined by Major League Baseball, who expressed his sorrow and his regret for the incident in a statement at the time, in a meaningful statement today and even more importantly to me and Tom directly today over the phone before we were willing to consummate the trade, a player who is active currently in Major League Baseball and pitching for another team.
“We decided that it was appropriate to trade to that player. It doesn’t mean we’re turning our back on the importance of character at all. I think because we’ve emphasized character and building this core that we have, we have a tremendously strong clubhouse culture. We have great character down there. We think that it will help Aroldis as he moves forward.”