Cuban left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman, whose defection sparked a bidding war among major league teams that coveted his 100-mph fastball, agreed Sunday morning to sign for $30 million with the Cincinnati Reds, sources close the negotiations told Yahoo! Sports.
The 22-year-old Chapman's value has steadily climbed since a Dec. 15 workout in Houston in which he wasn't throwing at full speed and still hit 97 mph. His potential as a front-of-the-line starter intrigued teams from coast to coast.
The bidding increased from an initial $15.5 million offer from the Boston Red Sox in early December to the highest reported proposal of $23 million from Toronto a few days ago.
Chapman immediately becomes the top prospect in the Reds' system and could join a dangerous young rotation if Edinson Volquez returns healthy from Tommy John surgery and Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey develop. The Reds had been particularly quiet this offseason, sitting on a team that went 78-84 last year.
Where the 22-year-old Chapman begins the season – in the high minor leagues or in the Reds' rotation – will likely depend on how he pitches in spring training. Scouts and executives who saw him at the Dec. 15 workout said Chapman has potential to be a No. 1 starter.
Few NL teams beyond the Reds and Marlins were linked to Chapman. The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals sent their general managers to the workout. The New York Mets were an intriguing possibility as well, fulfilling Chapman's desire to play in a big city. Cincinnati, which could shed almost $20 million from its payroll after this year by declining options for Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo, stepped up at the end by offering only $2 million less than Jose Contreras received when he defected.
The increased interest coincided with Chapman firing Edwin Mejia, a fledgling agent who helped him establish residency in Andorra after he defected from the Cuban national team over the summer. His new agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, are well-respected around baseball, and officials said they appreciated the transparency the Hendrickses applied to Chapman.
Because he spent his formative years in Cuba, Chapman was something of an unknown. His fastball was legendary, his slider dangerous and his changeup a potential plus pitch, but scouts had seen him a limited number of times – including during the World Baseball Classic last March – and were reluctant to engage in a blind bidding.
After the workout in Houston, many were convinced. The 6-foot-4 Chapman, not throwing at maximum effort, flashed good command of his breaking pitches in two short bullpen sessions. And his fastball led one front-office man to say, very simply, "It's awesome."
The Reds apparently agreed.
- Aroldis Chapman
- Cincinnati Reds