Monday, January 11, 2010

Cuban Defector Becomes a Red

A Cincinnati Red that is.

Pitcher Aroldis Chapman has signed a six-year contract with the Reds worth a little over $30 million.

Chapman pitched with the Cuban national team during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He defected when the team was playing a tournament in The Netherlands last July. Chapman subsequently established residence in Andorra and petitioned MLB for free agent status.

The 22-year-old southpaw, capable of throwing in excess of 100 MPH, attracted interest from several teams. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were initially interested in Chapman but backed away. Chapman was also courted by the New York Mets, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays before signing with the Reds.

For the amount of money the Reds spent the one thing that worries me about this signing is that they will rush Chapman to the majors before he is ready. Given the Reds haven't had a winning season since 2000 and attendance at The Great American Ballpark declined by more than 300,000 in 2009 one cannot help but think the Reds might succumb to the temptation to bring up him in an effort to boost attendance figures. It would not surprise to see him in a major league uniform before the end of the 2010 season.

Despite all of Chapman's great stuff his control has been a problem. He walks a lot of batters. As such it isn't clear whether he'll be a starter or a reliever. Yet this is a dilemma the Reds would rather have than not.

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