by Caesar Cliffius
The Cincinnati Reds are expected to announce today that they have signed Cuban southpaw Aroldis Chapman.
The flame-throwing 22-year-old had been courted by the Red Sox, Angels, Marlins, and Blue Jays. Chapman was a sensational pitcher for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, with a fastball clocked at three digits.
It is unclear what the Reds plan to do with him, whether to start him out with Louisville or a AA squad. It opens some questions about how the future of big-time money will affect Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Harang made a reported $14 million in 2009 while Arroyo pulled in over $10 million.
The signing of the Cuban defector does make one wonder about the possibilities of relieving a heavy paycheck from the payroll. Harang struggled for the second consecutive year after two 16-win seasons. In 2008 and 2009 his combined record is 12-31 with an ERA of 4.52 and an ERA+ off just 96.
After a shaky start in 2009, Arroyo settled down and finished with a 15-13 mark with a 3.84 ERA.
Edinson Volquez is already predicted to be out at least until the All-Star break and perhaps longer. Behind Arroyo and Harang, the starting rotation consists of Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, with a question mark sitting on the No. 5 starter.
Harang, 31, is still young enough to bounce back and be the productive horse that he was before his untimely plummet into a pitcher’s abyss. He would be my choice to headline a deal for a quality shortstop. The Reds should certainly be able to come up with a decent shortstop in exchange for the big right-hander.
Chapman could be a rainmaker, perhaps playing for Cincinnati as early as 2010. He has great speed; however, his control is suspect at this juncture of his development. Perhaps with a few months working with the coaches at Louisville, he could be able to test the waters early on.
He is clearly the shot in the arm that the Reds needed, being basically dormant this offseason.
When he does become ready for the big leagues, he will hopefully be the southpaw starter the Reds have needed in their rotation for several years now.
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