Reports on Sunday indicate that Cuban free-agent lefthander Aroldis Chapman has agreed to terms with the Cincinnati Reds on a four-year, plus an option deal that could total $30 million. The deal was first reported by Foxsports.com with details added by MLB.com. It could be announced on Monday.
The surprising contract offer by the Reds, who had remained silent throughout the process, simply means that the Jays, Angels, Red Sox, Marlins and Yankees get to stuff their money back in their pockets for other uses. The range of rejected offers was rumoured to be between $13 million (Marlins) and $23 million (Jays) all of them considered to be signing bonuses paid over four years.
If indeed the previously non-contending Reds have authorized GM Walt Jocketty to make that offer to the Hendricks brothers, it likely means that Cincinnati plans on bringing him to the majors some time during the 2010 season -- sooner rather than later. When the 22-year-old Chapman was dealing with his original agent, the inexperienced Edwin Mejia, one of the early demands that scared off many teams until the agent switch, was that the Cuban defector be brought directly to the majors. They had backed off of that demand, but if the careful Reds are willing to break the bank, they want him there now.
In addition to the Reds status as a building franchise, but immediate non-contenders is the fact that pitching in the NL, in particular the NL Central, gives Chapman his best chance at early success. Blessed with a fastball that hits the century mark, his slider and change are not major-league ready. The best course for his career would be to spend some time in the minors and emerge whenever he's ready.
Jays' fans in defeat can take solace in the fact that the process of the Chapman negotiation has demonstrated that ownership is not reluctant to spend money if the situation so warrants. In this case it was the addition of a young, talented, controllable player to go with the stockpile that they seem to be building up heading towards nine choices in the first three rounds of this June's draft.