On Friday, the Toronto Blue Jays appeared to surge into the lead in the pursuit of Aroldis Chapman, reportedly offering the Cuban lefthander $23 million.
But the Reds - far from among the most-mentioned suitors early in a process that began in September when Chapman, 22, was declared a free agent - swooped in and signed the pitcher to a six-year, $30.25-million deal yesterday.
Both teams had representation in Houston on Dec. 15 when Chapman's new agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, hosted a private throwing session followed by a meet-and-greet, but neither was inspired enough to throw the demanded big-money offers Chapman's way.
The Red Sox, who had Chapman throw for them Oct. 28 at Fenway Park, were the first team known to have made an offer, at $15.5 million in November. The Marlins also were known to have made an offer, in the neighborhood of $13 million.
But once the bidding went beyond $20 million, teams began to back off a pitcher who has a big upside - Chapman's fastball was clocked at 102 mph in the World Baseball Classic - but is largely an unknown quantity.
"He has a very good arm but he's got a ways to go to be a pitcher [in the majors]," said one talent evaluator, who also noted concerns about Chapman's control.
Those issues, and the asking price, were enough to dissuade plenty of teams but, surprisingly, not the Reds. They have not had a winning season since 2000, and their highest season payroll in that time was about $74.1 million in 2008.
Chapman gets a signing bonus of $16.25 million that will be paid
over time. Some of the money in his contract will be paid out over
a 10-year span.
The contract framework helps the Reds, who are expected to trim
their payroll from last season’s final figure of $72.7 million. The
Reds drew 1.7 million fans during their ninth straight losing
season, their smallest gate since 1986.