Finally after all the talk and speculation about who would land the 21 year-old south paw Aroldis Chapman, the unlikely winner was the Cincinnati Reds, who signed Chapman to a six-year, $30 million contract early last week.
Now that the ink is officially dry on the young Cuban defector's contract, the question on many people's minds, especially here in Cincinnati, is will Chapman lace up his cleats for the Reds this year?
Having lived in Cincinnati my whole life I was shocked when I first heard that Aroldis Chapman wanted to play here, with all the offers my hometown Reds won him over, even beating out my beloved Red Sox, and people started talking saying "We got a shot in 2011 when this kid comes up out of Louisville." but I honestly believe that Chapman will be in a Reds uniform before the All-Star Break.
I believe this for many reasons, mostly that we need a pitcher who is fresh and can go the distance if he needs to. From what I saw from Chapman in World Baseball Classic I seriously believe he can.
I have never heard of the Reds spending $30 million to sign a free agent, let alone a rookie free agent who can't speak English and who needed to be shown where all the 32 MLB teams were located on Google maps. But there are some people who feel quite differently about when we'll see that 100-MPH plus fastball at Great American Ballpark.
Most Reds fans are in shell shock about the catastrophe that is Homer Bailey's MLB career since he too was a highly talked about pitching prodigy before coming to the Majors. I think because Chapman has played at an international level he will be able to settle in to his role as a member of the Reds' starting five better than Bailey which makes him a better prospect to bring up and keep at the top level.
Others say "Well he can't speak English at all—how will he be able to communicate with the coaching staff." Well think about this: how many foreign born players play in the majors, a lot, and how many of them speak fluent English, not so many, Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't speak any English either and he has been able to adapt with the Red Sox. Not to mention that both Bryan Price, the Reds pitching coach, and Dusty Baker speak Spanish.
Another question is if this deal means the Reds organization has woken up and is done being the door mat to teams with bigger budgets, what impact will Chapman have when he finally does join the rotation?
In all honesty I believe this deal might just be the kiss of death for Bronson Arroyo or Aaron Harang, or both. I believe Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez will be able to show Chapman what needs to be done in the Majors in order to succeed and that Cincinnati will be looking to free up space for more dynamic talent then what they have now.
Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo represent just over $24 million, and both of them definitely were not up to par in 2009 and slowly have been on the decline for years. So I see this as possibly being a way of filling a spot in the rotation and trying to find a way to free up some money in order to get some more talent behind the mound, but I won't say that Chapman will definitely be a Red right away.
With all of his amazing talents he does have a few things that he needs to work on, for one his breaking ball could use a little work along with his control, and who knows maybe by the end of spring training that will all be a thing of the past and he will be in the rotation in April.
The other thing is that he's only 21 years old, and as a young player if things don't go as you expect that can sometimes lead to some negatives, sort of like Homer Bailey's situation, he was king of the mound until he came up to the Majors and had a few bad starts and then it seemed that every time he gets brought up he loses his nerve and makes mistakes.
Regardless of the pros and cons of bringing him up now, I can't wait to see number 54 taking the mound at Great American Ballpark. I am also interested to see how this move will effect the Reds rotation as well as the Reds organization as a whole.