clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On Aroldis Chapman

New, comments

Guess I should talk about this, since the Mariners seem to be showing considerable interest. I understand I'm late to the party, but then I never expected that the M's would still be hovering around at this point in the sweepstakes.

It's easy to see why Chapman's getting so much attention. Though Major League scouts haven't seen him that much and he hasn't thrown a lot against quality competition, just watching what comes out of his arm for one inning against anyone tells you pretty much everything you need to know. Just 21, he's a lefty who sits in the mid-90s and has the capability to touch triple digits with his fastball, and the slider he flashed in the WBC had a wicked amount of horizontal movement. Chapman's stuff - just his pure stuff - is top-notch. Anyone who can throw that kind of fastball and that kind of slider and mix them with the occasional change, curve or split is going to open some eyes. Though raw, Chapman comes with incredible, virtually limitless upside.

Which isn't to say that the downside isn't there. The big mark against Chapman is that his command sucks. I don't know if his control sucks, but as far as hitting his spot is concerned...he can't be much fun in batting practice. Poor command diminishes the value of even elite-level stuff. Beyond that, his secondary pitches are numerous but unconvincing, he has minimal experience against disciplined bats, a lot of people have already pegged him as a future reliever, and there are questions surrounding his maturity.

We shouldn't oversell all that, though. If it weren't for the flaws, Chapman would be the best pitcher on the planet. His age and background work as points in his favor, as he still has a lot of room to develop, especially on the watch of some of the best instructors in the world. His command should get at least a little bit better as Major League coaches work on his delivery. And I don't much care that there are pictures of him hanging out in what looks like a strip club, since he's the equivalent of a college freshman in terms of his experience with freedom. He may be a little immature, and he may be known for pouting on the mound when he doesn't get a call, but, again, he's 21. Felix used to whine a lot, too.

Chapman, clearly, is a quality prospect. He is by no means a guarantee. What he is right now is sort of the equivalent of the old, bad Matt Thornton. There's a chance he may never be more than that. He might always survive on two pitches and struggle to find the zone. But remember that Thornton figured it out, and Chapman's still the definition of 'raw'. His upside is what makes him valuable, and his upside is huge. There's a reason why a lot of the best organizations in baseball are in on this guy.

What makes the situation dicey is that Chapman wants to get paid. A lot. Or at least his agent does. The numbers being floated around are $40-60m, which, as you can imagine, are separating the serious courters from the casual ones, and the serious courters with money from the serious courters without it. $40-60m is an awful lot of money. At that kind of desired cost, he blows away other international free agents and becomes a big-time prize with big-time risk. The team that ends up landing him is gonna have to be damn sure they know what they're doing.

So the obvious question is, do I think Chapman's worth what he wants? To which my answer is, I don't know. You can't say he should lower his asking price to something more in line with that of a typical high draft pick, because Chapman isn't a draft pick - he's a free agent. He can ask for a ton of money because he knows there's a ton of demand, and there's a ton of demand because he packs a ton of talent. I don't know how much that talent is worth. I've seen very little of him, and the lack of experience against advanced competition makes him difficult to project. What I would suggest in a case like this is that you trust that, no matter what they decide, the Mariners know what they're doing. If they decide Chapman's worth a bid, go with it. If they decide he isn't, go with it. The whole appeal of these guys is that they're better at talent evaluation than most of the world, and "most of the world" includes you and me, so this is one of those times where I'm happy to defer to the people in charge.

Let's say, though, that the M's do decide to make Chapman an offer. Then what happens? For him to sign here, I think one of three things would have to happen:

(1) Chapman weighs his presumably similar offers and chooses the M's over the competition

(2) The M's knowingly makes an inflated offer in order to sweeten their standing

(3) The M's see something other teams don't, something positive, and offer Chapman a higher contract as a result of perceiving him as more valuable than the other teams

#1 seems unlikely to me. If Chapman gets a handful of offers from places like Boston, New York, Seattle, and others, I don't think he picks to settle in the northwest. Seattle's a very difficult place for someone in Chapman's situation to live, and it's also not an organization that would put him in the best position to win. Boston and New York in particular are both more successful and far less isolated.

#2 is possible, but I also think it's unlikely, because when you have a guy who's already as big a risk as Chapman, I don't think a front office such as the one we have in power would put itself out there any more than it has to. The team will probably look at Chapman, assign a value, and go forward with that value, and if it isn't high enough, then so be it. To offer him more than that value is worth would be to increase the risk while leaving the reward.

#3 is probably the most likely of the options. The Mariners' scout(s) might see something about Chapman that makes them more confident in him than other organizations, and that confidence would be reflected in the contract offer. And that could make Seattle the favorite. The issue, though, is that with so much publicity and so many eyes, it's hard to imagine that the M's would see something that goes undetected by everyone else.

All in all, though the M's are in on Aroldis Chapman, and though they appear to be serious, from where I sit, they don't have very good odds. While the Mariners are a solid organization on the rise, they just can't compete with the Red Sox and Yankees in a lot of areas which Chapman would find appealing. Throw in that there are other organizations aside from these three getting involved and that only reduces our odds even further. So, although there's a chance, I'd be surprised. Shocked, even. And, hey, maybe that's a good thing. He's a risky son of a bitch.

Personally, what I find to be most interesting about all this is that, for the M's to be involved, they have to know that Chapman's going to cost a lot. And for the M's to be involved despite that knowledge means that they're prepared to offer Chapman a lot of money if they determine that he's worth it. I don't buy into the suggestion that Chapman would be brought in to "replace" Felix Hernandez for one minute, but I do have to wonder what this means as far as the Felix negotiations are concerned. If the M's are potentially willing to give a lot of money to a 21 year old Cuban with minimal experience, then they'd be willing to give a lot of money to a 23 year old who's proven himself to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, right? You can't be open to taking an expensive risk at one point and closed off to taking an expensive risk the next, can you? If you can, why?