How seriously the Washington Nationals pursued Aroldis Chapman when the Cincinnati Reds were shopping the reliever this winter is unclear, but as soon as reports of domestic violence accusations and a potential suspension emerged, that pursuit came to an end.
General Manager Mike Rizzo did, however acknowledge that there was interest on the Nationals' part until the reports surfaced.
"It's changed, obviously, with the allegations against him," Rizzo told reporters this winter.
"It's something that we're not going to continue to go after until we find out how things have happened. It's something that we don't want to get into that because of the allegations against him. So there's plenty of other targets that we have and we're going to move on to those."
Chapman, 28, was eventually dealt to the New York Yankees in exchange for a package of four minor leaguers including one-time Nationals' prospect Tony Renda.
He served a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball's new Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy.
Through 29 games and 28 ⅓ innings for the Yankees this season, the hard-throwing lefty, who has averaged 99.8 mph with his fastball, against which hitters have a .165 AVG, has put up a 2.22 ERA, a 2.09 FIP, eight walks (2.54 BB/9) and 40 Ks (12.71 K/9), while holding opposing hitters to a .178/.239/.277 line.
According to a report from FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal this morning, the Nationals are once again expressing interest in the closer, who has been a target for the Nationals' GM since he first saw him work out before Chapman signed a 6-year/$30.25M deal with the Reds.
Chapman, who avoided arbitration and agreed on a 1-year/$11.325M contract with the Yankees this winter, is headed for free agency at the end of the year, and if traded, the team that acquires him will not receive a compensatory pick if he were to depart as a free agent under the rules of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is the Nationals' most likely target," as they look to bolster their relief corps, Rosenthal writes, citing anonymous sources.
"Dusty Baker is fond of him, from their days together with the Reds," and the "acquisition cost" for the Yankees' other potentially-available reliever, Andrew Miller, who is under contract through 2018 at $9M per, "... might be beyond the Nats' liking."
Baker, who managed Chapman from 2010-2013 when both were with the Reds, talked this winter about the possibility of acquiring the reliever.
"I'll go on record and say I wouldn't mind having Chapman," Baker said at the Winter Meetings, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against the lefty.
"He is a tremendous young man with a great family, mom and dad, and what he went through to get here and what his family had to go through to get here. I was with him through the whole process.
"There were a couple times when I had to stop him from quitting or going back to Cuba because he was lonely for his family. So I went through a lot of stuff with Chapman. I got nothing but love for the young man."
What will the Nationals be willing to give up to get a reliever who would be a two-plus month rental unless he agreed to an extension? Would they be willing to deal with the potential PR hit that is sure to be an issue for any team that trades for the seven-year veteran?
How would the current closer in D.C., Jonathan Papelbon react to another closer coming to the nation's capital?