â†µThe Reds did more than solidify their pitching staff with the signing of Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman today. They've shown that, for the first time in years, they're serious about competing in the National League Central. Heck, the Reds may actually become a competitor for the pennant in the next few years. And that has to make Reds fans happy. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt's one thing to grow from within and build a stable of talent at the major league level – something the Reds have done well in the last few seasons – but to go out and spend money on talent is a totally different avenue. And spend they have, signing Chapman to a reported five-year, $30.25 million deal. â†µâ†µ
â†µWhat's most surprising is that the Reds – the same team that couldn't offer a contract to Jonny Gomes because of the inflexibility of their payroll – is shelling out big bucks for an unproven commodity. And it seemed impossible to read a sentence about the Reds containing the word outbid and not having it preceded by the word got. Per MLB.com's story on the signing: â†µâ†µ
â†µâ‡¥"There are several reasons why the Chapman deal is a shocker. First, the small-market Reds outbid deeper pocketed clubs, including the Blue Jays, Angels and Red Sox, who were the first to bid with an initial $15.5 million offer in early December. Toronto reportedly offered him $23 million. The Marlins also reportedly offered him a deal in the $16 million range." â†µâ†µReds GM Walt Jocketty, at today's news conference introducing Chapman, said, "this is a very significant deal for this organization," explaining that with the size of the market, the organization has to make "some bold moves from time to time" in order to not only cater to their current fan base, but expand to more fans as well. â†µ
â†µAs an aside, is there anything more fun than the courtship of an unscoutable prospect, especially when he's a hard-throwing lefty from Cuba? It really is baseball's version of the Great American dream, coming, this time, to a ballpark of the same name. â†µâ†µ
â†µAnd that ballpark should be an exciting place to be. To respectfully disagree with Shanoff's comment earlier today, some people thought the Reds were playoff contenders last season (they were wrong), and Cincinnati should be healthier this season, especially with the eventual return of Edinson Volquez after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. Aaron Harang will need to bounce back to his old self after two down years, but the rest of the staff was good, though not great, in 2009. Bronson Arroyo has won 15 games in back-to-back seasons and Homer Bailey went 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA in his final six starts of 2009. Even Johnny Cueto, who struggled at times last season, still won 11 games. The bullpen is solid on the back end with Francisco Cordero and the lineup is young and exciting with the likes of Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. Even Scott Rolen re-did his contract and is signed on for another few years. â†µâ†µ
â†µBut the Chapman signing is bigger than all of that. It's a huge signing for the franchise – some even suggesting the biggest Reds free-agent signing since Dave Parker in 1984 – and for the city, giving fans even more hope for years to come. A year in the system for Chapman, a full year of recovery for Volquez and another year of seasoning for the youngsters in the lineup could prove to make 2011 the year for the Reds. But 2010 shouldn't be a wash. Will they win the division? The Central still has the Cardinals who are as good as last season and the Cubs and Brewers both finished ahead of Cincinnati last year. But they'll be a tough team to face, and worth watching when Chapman hits the majors. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.