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.