Ken Rosenthal is tweeting and Rotoworld is repeating (and beauty is fleeting and the hot stove is heating) that the Reds are contenders for Cuban super-free agent pitcher Aroldis Chapman. The Blue Jays are thought to be the favorite (partly because of money freed by trading Scott Rolen, sigh), but the Reds are still in the thick of it.
So what would a Reds signing of Chapman mean? First, let's look at who this guy is.
Chapman is a 22 year old left-handed starting pitcher who recently defected from Cuba and set up residency in Andorra, allowing him to be signed now as an international free agent. ESPN's Jorge Arangure called him one of the three great pitchers in the world currently who aren't in the majors. So what does he bring to the table?
First, he is that rarest of breeds: a hard throwing, power pitching lefty (think Randy Johnson or Johan Santana). Chapman has a pitcher's body: He's listed at 6'4" with a lean, projectable body. His fastball sits at 93-96, but often jumps up to 98 and has touched 100. He has good control of his fastball which he couples with a wicked slider that ranges from 79-83 mph. The two pitches are thrown from the same arm angle, making them extremely difficult to differentiate. He also throws a curveball, but it is a very raw pitch that he doesn't control well. Chapman also has clean mechanics, easy velocity, and the potential to be a workhorse. So what's not to like?
In a word, risk. Chapman is extremely raw, lacking good command on anything but his fastball. Further, he often cannot locate any of his pitches. His curveball is thrown from a much different arm angle, making it highly ineffective at this point. He's still very much a thrower and not a pitcher, and is very inconsistent with both his velocity and command. At age 22, he has a lot to figure out relatively quickly. Despite the clean mechanics, the fact that he throws so hard makes him somewhat of an injury risk.
So what will it cost to sign him? Reports are that he has been offered over $20 million, and the bidding could go as high as $30 mil. It would undoubtedly be a major league contract, putting him on the 40 man roster and giving him a short time to make the majors. Chapman needs someone who can work with him, make his delivery more consistent, improve his command, and perhaps teach him an effective offspeed pitch. (Mario Soto anyone?) If all goes well, Chapman has legitimate #1 starter, even Cy Young potential. Or he could stall out in AAA.
So, RR nation, would you take him? What if it meant losing out on a first and second round pick in the draft because all the money was spent on Chapman? On the other hand, who wouldn't like a rotation in 2012 of Chapman, Cueto, Bailey, Volquez, and Leake?
What do you think?
Note: I am highly indebted to this site for much of the above information. If you are interested in the study of pitcher mechanics, specifically those of Chapman, go check it out.