I consider myself a sports fan. By that, though, I mean I love baseball and football. Everything else is either of no interest to me at all, or it’s merely a fill-in between the two seasons. So needless to say, I was as surprised as everyone else when a friend texted me last night saying the Reds got “that Cuban pitcher.”
You see, I had only heard about this guy briefly. By “briefly” I mean I’ve seen his name on Baseball Tonight as one of the top free agents still available.
This offseason, I’ve been avoiding shows like that and the MLB Network because I know the Reds haven’t done anything I want to hear about and I know they won’t have anything to do with any top-notch free agents.
“Out of sight, out of mind” has been my mantra since early October. Perhaps “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” would better sum it up.
However, earlier today General Manager Walt Jocketty introduced “that Cuban pitcher,” Aroldis Chapman, as the newest member of the Cincinnati Reds. Unbelievable.
My initial theory is that the Castro regime has had Cuba so cut off from the outside world for so long that Chapman probably has no idea who the Reds are. They’re the Yankees for all he knows, right? Actually, yeah, he had no idea who the Reds were or where Cincinnati was until a few days ago.
But apparently he signed with the Reds because they made the best offer, outbidding the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Marlins among others. In fact, the Reds nearly doubled the deal reportedly offered by Boston. I’m still in disbelief.
This deal keeps getting better. The Reds have signed Chapman to a five-year deal worth $30.25 million with an option for a sixth, but it’s structured as a 10 year payment, drastically reducing the burden of the contract on the club at the present time. According to John Fay, this contract won’t be a heavy load until 2014. Unbelievable, I know!
Chapman is a 22-year-old (who knows how old he actually is) left-hander whose fastball tops out around 100 mph. He pitched for the Cuban national team in the World Baseball Classic before defecting to Andorra where he established residency to avoid the baseball draft.
The biggest knock on him is his control. But from what I understand, this is only a matter of mechanics which shouldn’t be a major obstacle regarding his Major League readiness. Chapman offers a plus fastball and a nice slider.
If he hasn’t already, I’m sure Chapman will be meeting with Mario Soto and Bryan Price very soon to begin working on his mechanics and adding a change-up to his repertoire.
Side note: the Reds new pitching coach, Bryan Price, is apparently fluent in Spanish. Very helpful.
The big question on every Reds fan’s mind: When can we expect to see this guy in Cincinnati? That remains to be seen. Surely the reporter who undoubtedly asked Walt Jocketty that same question didn’t really expect to get a timeline in return. But that’s no fault of Walt’s.
With Chapman’s control being an issue, the club has no idea how quickly that will be resolved and I would be surprised if he is on the Opening Day roster, though it’s not out of the question. If Chapman does require a little time in Louisville, I would expect to see him with the big league club soon. Obviously you don’t sign a guy to a contract like that only to bury him in AAA. Although, Dusty Baker has a penchant for letting guys “simmer.”
So just as the Bengals exit stage right, in comes Aroldis Chapman, to make my life as a sports fan happy again.
The itch has officially started. I’m getting ready for baseball.