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Offseason rumblings: Aroldis Chapman could be heading to the Reds' starting rotation

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

After three major-league seasons as a reliever and a debate of at least as long, Aroldis Chapman could be headed into the Cincinnati Reds' rotation. The club was reported Monday to be well into negotiations to sign their free-agent reliever, Jonathan Broxton. If finalized, the signing would allow Broxton to take over the ninth inning and free Chapman – if GM Walt Jocketty deems it so – to become a starter for the first time as a big leaguer.

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In three seasons, Aroldis Chapman has appeared in 137 games as a reliever for the Reds. (Getty Images)

Chapman's preference is to start. The club was at least considering it last spring, when Chapman prepared in March as a starter. Then Nick Masset's shoulder went bad and Ryan Madson's elbow blew. By April, Chapman was setting up for Sean Marshall, a month later Chapman was pitching the ninth inning, and by September he had 38 saves, a 1.51 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 71⅔ innings.

What's best for Chapman and the Reds – Chapman as a starter or Chapman as a reliever – has been kicked around in Cincinnati since January 2010, when the Reds signed the Cuban defector to a six-year, $30.25 million contract. By the end of the last spring training, when it seemed the Reds were leaning toward Chapman as a starter, manager Dusty Baker was annoyed by the questions and Chapman would merely shrug.

"Well, I don't know," he'd said. "I think I can be in the rotation. I don't know. That's not my decision. In the end, that's a decision I cannot make."

[Related: Playoff shares announced; Giants get record $377,002.64]

Circumstances warranted Chapman's return to the bullpen, where he was virtually unhittable save for a two-week period in June and a slight wobble in September. So, the Reds choose between the known (a great closer) and the unknown (an inexperienced starter), but seemed to be nearing a decision through negotiations with Broxton. Of course, that won't end the debate of Chapman's worth over 70 innings vs. his worth over 200 innings, his stuff over 70 innings vs. his stuff over 200, and which role more exposes his left arm to injury.

In the rotation he'd join Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo, and that would be very good. Or, he'd pitch the ninth in what last season was the best bullpen in the National League. The Reds could hardly get it wrong. Unless, you know, they do.

And then …

The best part of the Tampa Bay Rays' $100 million extension for Evan Longoria is that he can be a Ray through 2022, even 2023, and we like it when good, homegrown players grow old in one uniform. The second-best part is that if the Rays don't get a new ballpark, don't find new revenue streams and don't find a way to bridge the have/have-not gap, they can trade Longoria, because that's still a very club-friendly contract.

The owner, Stu Sternberg, and the general manager, Andrew Friedman, really only lose if Longoria can't stay upright. So they gamble 2012 and Longoria's testy hamstring was a fluke, and they bank on the fact the organization can continue to produce top pitching talent, and they invest in one of the more skilled and charismatic players in the league. Seems like everybody wins, one way or another …

If the Giants choose to non-tender Brian Wilson, the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers are among the teams that could move in on the liberated closer. The Giants must choose by Friday whether to offer a contract to Wilson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April and expects to be ready to pitch by opening day. Other estimates push back that date by a month or so.

It is unknown if Wilson would consider a setup role with the Yankees, who are negotiating to bring back Mariano Rivera for one season. The Red Sox have received trade interest on their closer, Andrew Bailey, which could lead to an opening for Wilson, who grew up in New Hampshire as a Red Sox fan. The Dodgers last month signed Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract with a vesting option for a fourth year and have a closer option in Kenley Jansen …

[Related: Survey says, Jeffrey Loria more popular than Fidel Castro – barely]

Angel Pagan is three years older than and lacks the résumé breadth of B.J. Upton, but had a better 2012 in all ways but hitting home runs. Also a free agent, Pagan has been popular with many of the same clubs courting Upton, including the Phillies, Braves and Red Sox, along with the Giants …

Left-hander Joe Beimel, the workhorse reliever who had Tommy John surgery last spring, is throwing regularly off a mound and drawing interest from a number of teams, including the Nationals and Tigers. Before surgery, Beimel was told he'd pitched for perhaps years with a torn elbow ligament …

Even if they outbid the Dodgers, Rangers, Nationals and whomever else might jump in for Zack Greinke, the Angels would require at least one more starter. Edwin Jackson, whose record never seems to reflect his stuff, is one of the starters they've targeted …

At Jonny Gomes' suggestion, the Oakland A's voted a full playoff share – more than $34,000 – to charity. Reminds me of the '07 Rockies, who gave a full share to Mike Coolbaugh's widow, Amanda, and three children …

The Red Sox haven't spoken at length with Josh Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, since the general managers meetings …

Along with starting pitching, where their early offseason emphasis has been Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, the Dodgers appear to be in the market for a left-handed hitter who could spell Mark Ellis at second base and play some outfield.

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