The Dodgers had a deal in place for Chapman, the left-handed flame thrower formerly of the Cincinnati Reds, but backed out this winter when it was revealed that the pitcher had been involved in a domestic violence incident. Ultimately, the New York Yankees made a deal to acquire Chapman.
After a review by the league office, Chapman was suspended for 30 games under the MLB’s new domestic violence policy, although that suspension eventually was reduced a game.
So, the Yankees added one of the best relief pitchers in the game Monday to a loaded bullpen, while the Dodgers continue to try to find solid footing with their relief group.
Kenley Jansen recorded his 11th save in 11 tries Sunday, so the closer's spot has not been an issue. But Chapman would have helped to at least lengthen the bullpen.
How the save situations would have been divided, though, never will be known. If Chapman were arriving for his Dodgers season debut Monday, it would have been hard to unseat Jansen from his role.
To his credit, Jansen never did make a fuss over the fact that the front office wanted to bring aboard Chapman. As a free agent this upcoming winter, a loss of save opportunities would have taken money out of Jansen’s pocket.
“I can’t control it, so I can’t worry about that,” Jansen said Monday, when asked about Chapman. “I don’t even remember that right now, to be honest with you. My whole thing is right here, trying to win ballgames, trying to help my teammates.”
The Dodgers have struggled to get games to Jansen, especially in bridging the starter to the closer. Chris Hatcher and J.P. Howell struggled early, among others, but now Pedro Baez has started to stabilize the eighth-inning role.
Manager Dave Roberts can’t be blamed if he is hesitant to start labeling relievers with roles.
“I think for me, I love roles, I respect roles; and every player, in theory, likes a designated role,” Roberts said. “But every game is different and when you are trying to win a baseball game and that’s your only purpose, then I think sometimes roles are expandable and that’s something we have talked about since the winter.”
Expanded roles do not mean Jansen would have pitched the eighth instead of the ninth, although that could have been the case if Chapman was on board. Instead, that plan has manifested itself with Jansen getting more than three outs in a save, something he has done twice this season, including in Sunday’s game at Toronto.
But being versatile also means that Baez might pitch in the seventh inning Monday night if the heart of the New York Mets' order is up, leaving the eighth inning to somebody else.
Jansen feels like everything is finally coming together with the bullpen.
“I think that is what [Roberts] is doing right now, and it’s working,” Jansen said when asked if he can see guys settling into spots. “You see [Baez] in the eighth, it’s been great. They have been able to do a great job. J.P. is throwing the ball better now. And once you have all those guys keep doing what they are doing on a consistent basis, you’re going to be OK.”
What Jansen refuses to do is take a moment for a “what if,” had the Dodgers ended up acquiring Chapman.
“That’s just a waste of time,” he said. “You can’t put your focus and your energy on that. That’s not what you want. You want to put your focus on what you can control. That’s not what I can control right now. If I get in in the ninth inning, I’ll try to save the game.”