Monday, January 11, 2010

Quick Hits on Aroldis Chapman

I'll save the breakdown of Chapman the player until his prospect write up, but here's a look at the acquisition itself.

At first glance, I was warying of signing Chapman. I'm not high on Cuban arms. The Cuban people love their baseball and due to the political system in place on the island, they live in a somewhat isolated bubble. As such, I think the hype and reputations of the Cuban players frequently outpace the reality.

Still, the existence of the WBC gives these players a bit better exposure and gives teams a better measuring stick for evaluating them. They get to face a more established level of competition, so hopefully the Reds got a nice, long look at Chapman. Ideally, it'll merge the reputation and reality to a certain extent.

I was hoping to get a better breakdown of the contract he received. I've heard that he is going to receive $30.25M over 6-years. I've heard he's set to make only $1M in 2010, but also that he's receiving a signing bonus of $16.25M spread over 10 years. So, I really don't know how the $30.25M is going to be distributed.

At first, I was encouraged by the $1M salary in 2010, as I don't think he's ready for prime time. He's going to need some time to polish up his command and secondary offerings. In addition, he's going to have to adjust to the American culture, which is a bigger deal than we might think. So, it'll help that we aren't on the hook for much of his salary in 2010. Even so, given that it's all guaranteed money, it does little but increase the average salary of the next 5 years.

Even so, I must say that the price is certainly right. I'm a bit surprised that no other team was willing to go to that level. At first, I was concerned that the Red Sox, who are perhaps the best team in baseball at properly valuing players, were unwilling to go much past $15M. But, I suspect that has more to do with the BoSox bumping up against the luxury tax than anything else. To me, the Chapman contract makes sense even if he ends up being nothing more than a #4/5 starter. An annual salary of ~$5-6M isn't all that much for a back-end of the rotation starter, especially one that comes with Chapman's massive upside. He obviously can't be the bargain that Stephen Strasburg could be for the Nats, but that's the difference between draft eligible prospects and international free agents.

Another reason to like the signing is that it seems to fit in nicely with other aspects of their front office game plan. The Reds addressed an area of need, as they lacked much southpaw depth in the system. In addition, the loss of Stewart is less painful now that Chapman is in the fold. And, 2009 1st round pick, Mike Leake, makes more sense. He strikes me as more of a high-floor, lower ceiling type draft pick. So, the addition of a high-upside, higher risk type player like Chapman fits nicely.

Perhaps most importantly, this is another player personnel decision that really "moves the needle." It's the type of move that reverberates around MLB. Far too often, the Reds are completely ignored and marginalized. The years and years of poor play have made the Reds largely irrelevant in the mainstream media. So, it takes a jolt for them to even register across the country. This is a statement move and we haven't had one of those since the Josh Hamilton acquisition. A move that reminds the media that there actually are franchises that reside between the coasts.

It's hard not to like Chapman's upside. Personally, I don't buy the stories of a "102 mph fastball," but even 95+ mph is something special. He's obviously got the potential to be a stud and most pundits rank him among the top 25 prospects in all of baseball. So, the Reds just acquired a #1 prospect, which is pretty impressive. On the downside, rumor has it that they are going to pay for his contract out of the 2010 draft budget, which is potentially a significant opportunity cost which could drag down the value/impact of acquiring him.

Overall, it's a nice signing. It's not quite the bargain that you'll find in the Rule IV draft, but when you can add a player with his immense skills it's worth the risk. As for 2010, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that he might be better served getting in some consistent work in the minors. It'll be tempting to rush him, but a bit of development time and polish would likely be best for all.


  1. Uh I watched the WBC and saw him hit 100+ a few times, so its not a myth.

  2. Anon,

    And, radar guns are always accurate??? Were you there with your own calibrated radar gun? Did you watch it on TV? Who was operating the gun? Someone with an interest in having his velocity appear greater than it might actually be? Someone who was inexperienced in operating it?

    My point was not that he has never thrown a pitch that has registered that fast on a radar gun. My point was that I'm somewhat dubious about the accuracy/validity of such a reading. Even in MLB there is commonly a discrepancy between the velocity that is posted on the ballpark's scoreboard for the fans at the game and the velocity that is shown on the telecast for the fans at home. So, which one is right? Or, is neither right?

    Personally, I don't get too caught up in specific velocity reading. I prefer a range of velocities on each pitch.

    Maybe he throws 100+ and maybe he doesn't. But, Cuban players frequently arrive on American soil with reputations that exceed their abilities. So, it may well be that in baseball's exchange rate, 100+ translates into 95+ in the American professional ranks.

    I'd be ecstatic if he could dial it up to 100 mph, but I'd be just as pleased if he ultimately sits around 95 with the ability to locate.

    Time will tell, but I'll take a wait and see approach on his velocity.

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. Hey Lark maybe the wind was blowing in. I don't believe 102 but 100 I do. He supposedly hit 95 after a short workout of 3 weeks. I hope he's a September call up (at the earliest). He needs a little coaching from AA or triple A first. This signing was so positive for Reds fans everywhere (whodda thunk it)it makes me excited about the upcoming season. Remember only the Yanks had a better record over the last 6-8 weeks last year. We didn't lose anyone(yet)and Gomes has not signed anywhere. If we get him back then we have a great off season.

  4. Aceace,

    Maybe you're right. Maybe he hit 102 with a bit of a tailwind. ;)

    I, too, hope that we don't call him up until September. He most definitely needs some seasoning. Personally, I wouldn't object to sending him to high-A to start out. Let him earn his way up the ladder and prove he belongs. Better to start him too low and have to advance him quickly than to start him too high and have to demote him. I agree that his signing makes the offseason more enjoyable for Reds fans.

    As for leftfield, I'm still rooted in the Chris Dickerson camp. I'd love to see him get another shot and flash a bit more power. Dickerson and Stubbs would cover everything in the outfield, which can only help our pitching staff. And, I think he fits nicely in the leadoff slot. Still, I do like Gomes, though I'm not wild about his defense. I think he gives a decent amount of his offensive production back with his glove.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  5. "I don't buy the stories of a '102 mph fastball.'" Oh man, these articles are legit killing me. You're so awful. lol.