Aroldis Chapman, the 21 year old Cuban defector who recently declared for free agency, Looks to wow MLB scouts with his 100 MPH+ fastball, five pitch repertoire (fastball, slider, curve, change, cutter), and enough potential to make scouts blush. The Mets have a history of gushing over international free agents (losing out on Dice-K, Jose Contreras) and have history employing Cuban pitchers (The Hernandez brothers), with mixed results. Will this Cuban Missile be added to the Mets plans in 2010 and beyond, or will Met fans be relegated to only enjoying a new Cuban Sandwich on the Blue Smoke menu? Letâ€™s take a look at the numbers Chapman has compiled in both the Cuban League and in International competition.
Chapman by the numbers (Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus):
2005-2006: 3-5, 4.33 ERA.
2006-2007: 4-3, 7 SV, 2.77 ERA, 100 Kâ€™s, 59 H, 81 1/3 IP. He led the league in strikeouts, though he also ranked 6th in walks (50).
2007 Pan American Games: 0-0, 1IP, 2K, 0.00 ERA
2007 Baseball World Cup: 2-0, 20K in 17IP. He was named to the tournament All-Star team as the top left-handed pitcher.
2007-2008: 6-7 with a 3.89 ERA, .200 BAA and 79 strikeouts in 74 innings, tied for 7th in the league in strikeouts.
2009 WBC: 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA, 8 K’s in 6 1/3 IP.
2008-2009: 11-4, 4.03 ERA 130 Kâ€™s, 118 1/3 IP. He led the league in strikeouts, was tied for 4th in wins, was 5th with 62 walks and tied for the most wild pitches (14).
4 yr totals at Holguin: 24-19 record with 365 strikeouts in 327.2 innings with a 3.74 ERA
*Using scouting reports and comparative numbers from former Cuban League players currently in the MLB, the Cuban League plays between High-A and Double AA ball competitively, but with more talent disparity among the players, meaning the overall talent equals Double-A ball, but you have outliers of Major League talent as well as Low-A or Rookie Ball talent.
Most notable comparables at age (Baseball Prospectus): Mike Gonzalez, Oliver Perez, Andy Sisco, Scott Linebrink, Brian Fuentes
Notice by these numbers how Chapman has had great success as a relief pitcher as well as in the Cuban League, and how he has struggled against the big boys (the World Baseball Classic). Heâ€™s like Megan Fox in a way: Give â€˜em a lay-up (her role in Transformers, his role facing Cuban League hitters) and they will give you a YouTube worthy reverse, two-handed jam (Become the Hottest Woman in Hollywood, Become the Cuban Nolan Ryan). Hand them the keys to the Bentley, and they wrap it around a tree (Jenniferâ€™s Body**, the World Baseball Classic).
**Jenniferâ€™s Body? WHAT? Your Megan Foxâ€™s agent. She is a STAR. She fixes a car with a tied up flannel shirt and some jean shorts on, and she blows up. So you decide the best next role for her is a possessed chick who kills everything in sight by opening her mouth Alien style? There was no other leading role you could have put her in? You really think that by just being amazingly hot and being in two Michael Bay films with billions of dollars in advertising budgets, she could carry this abortion of a film? Really?
How do the Mets handle negotiating with Chapman? Do they need a 21 year old southpaw with unlimited upside who struck out 130 professional hitters in 118 innings? YES (doesnâ€™t everybody?). Can they afford to outbid the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels (he prefers a Southern California teamâ€¦thatâ€™s niceâ€¦hey Omar, go throw $50 mil to this unproven kid who wants to pitch in warm weather and oh by the way, he might not pan out) for his services? NOT THIS YEAR. Hereâ€™s why:
Omar Minaya is bad at his job: Ollie Perez, 12 million a year? Sure! Thanks Omar for basing a three year contract in 2009 on one playoff game (THAT HE LOST!!) in 2006. Luis Castillo, until 2011? Why not! His bad knees will get better with time, everybodyâ€™s knees do! If Minaya didnâ€™t waste all of his money on albatross contracts like Castillo and Perez, we could have some money to risk on a player of Chapmanâ€™s potential. Now Minaya must exhaust all of his 2010 funds on win-now players, and even that might not be enough to keep his head out of the guillotine. Side note Wilpons, if you need someone to don the Executioner garb and pull the rope sending the Ax Blade screaming down towards Omarâ€™s melon, Iâ€™m sure you can make a pretty penny putting this job up on eBay. Just a thought.
John Lackey is expensive: We need a frontline starter to couple with Johan. Enough said. Unless we drug Jim Hendry into giving us Big Z and Milton Bradley for Ollie (Milton bad contract swap), Castillo, and letâ€™s sayâ€¦.Holt, Parnell, and Jeffrey Marte (you wouldnâ€™t give up those three for Big Z? Really?) or trade 35 cents for the dollar that is Gil Meche, then John Lackey will be â€œShowing Up at Sheaâ€ in 2010 for the Mets. (Itâ€™s not that I donâ€™t call it Citi, I just love that tagline!)
Yankees! Red Sox! Itâ€™s bidding war 2010, presented by Just for Men! Stay in the game like Keith does, with Just for Men!: When the Evil Empire and the Red Sox Nation want someone, they pay to get them. Bostonâ€™s winning bid for the Dice was eight figures more than the Mets, who had the second highest bid. And the fact that Aroldis is already California Dreaminâ€™ makes it even more possible that the Yanks and Sox break the bank for the phenom.
In closing, Aroldis Chapman would be a great value for a big market team that can afford him, and afford to develop him into a dominant talent. Unfortunately for the Amazins, Minayaâ€™s plan for the Mets was as properly thought out as Fox giving Michael Strahan a sitcom, and that will prevent them from making an investment in Chapmanâ€™s services in return for his potential dominance of the league in three to four years. (Please donâ€™t tell me you like Michael Strahanâ€™s sitcom. Please.)