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Should the Pirates Have Signed Aroldis Chapman?

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Bob Smizik cracks me up:

Chass talked to Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who detailed how the Reds decided to do something drastically different and go after Chapman, who will be 22 later this month.

``We started talking about what it would cost," Jocketty acknowledged, ``and I said ‘gee, I don’t know that we can do this.’ But I talked to ownership about it. I showed our reports to [owner] Bob Castellini and he got excited. We got into it and felt it was important for the long term of this organization."

That’s not a philosophy the Pirates would likely take under owner Bob Nutting, and it might be the wrong one. But it was a refreshing change for the team’s fan [sic].

Yeah, I mean, $30 million on a 22-year-old pitcher might turn out to be a complete waste, but the fans are psyched. Smizik doesn't even try to argue that signing Aroldis Chapman was a good idea from a baseball perspective. He apparently thinks the Reds have done the right thing by throwing some money around, regardless of where it went.

Chapman obviously has a chance to be great, but his velocity varies from start to start, he doesn't have much of a changeup, and Cuban imports have a collective track record that, for a variety of reasons, is decidedly mixed. When guys like Danys Baez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Contreras (along with more unambiguously-good signings like Kendry Morales and Alexei Ramirez) are among the more successful players, that's not good. As for Chapman himself, Clay Davenport translated his Cuban stats--which aren't nearly as impressive as you might think, from all the hype he's gotten--and the results are downright bad. Davenport ran a list of comparables for Chapman, and the only reasonably successful major league starter in the top twelve is--wait for it--Oliver Perez. After that, there are a few good major league relievers (Mike Gonzalez, Brian Fuentes, Scott Linebrink) and a bunch of nobodies.

I'm not trying to write off Chapman before his U.S. career even starts, and I think scouting reports should carry more weight than translations of his Cuban stats, given the relative lack of data with which to do the translating. But the amount of risk the Reds are assuming here is crazy. Chapman's velocity and left-handedness are tantalizing, but he's probably more likely, at this point, to flame out completely than to develop into a star. (And even if he reaches the majors, keep in mind that pitcher-killer Dusty Baker will be his manager. Baker has been better with young Reds pitchers like Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez than he was with Mark Prior, but the fact that Baker will be the one deciding how much Chapman pitches still doesn't sit well, especially given that Chapman's elbow looks like it's going to break into pieces with every pitch he throws.)

In the abstract (young, lefty, great velocity, good breaking stuff), Chapman is exactly the sort of player I want the Pirates to acquire. But I want them to acquire players like that in the middle rounds of the draft with $1 million investments, and not by spending $30 million. I obviously understand that you usually can't pick up a lefty who throws 100 MPH in the fifth round of the draft, but I do think spending $30 million on Chapman was a dumb thing for the Reds to have done. If it works--it might, and obviously the Reds' scouts know a lot about this that I don't--then sure, they'll look smart, but if it doesn't, it's the sort of contract that will cripple a team with their payroll for years to come. Small-payroll teams should take risks, but this is not the sort they should take.

Unless the fans like it, in which case, by all means.