Washington Nationals: Aroldis Chapman + Stephen Strasburg = Splash!

According, of course, to anonymous sources, the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins are the only two teams to have placed offers on the table for Cuban-born Andorran (don't ask) free agent pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who defected while abroad for a tournament in Rotterdam the Netherlands back in early July 2009. Almost immediately, speculation began as to how much the then 21-year-old left-hander (age acc. to ESPN), who'd been clocked by scouts throwing a triple-digit fastball, might collect on the open market since, as an international free agent, he isn't eligible for the First-Year Player draft and can be signed by any team in baseball...

ESPN.com's Jorge Arangure Jr., in the initial article announcing Chapman's defection entitled, "Top Cuban prospect defects", was already throwing out big numbers, writing that, "According to several estimates," the 6'4'', 200-lb lefty, "...could garner a contract worth anywhere from $30 million to $60 million," with fellow Cuban defector Jose Contreras' 4-year/$32 million dollar deal held up as an example of what Chapman might expect.

The public negotiations with the No.1 overall pick in the '09 Draft, Stephen Strasburg, started with a rumor of his desire to sign a $60 million dollar deal with the team that drafted him. The Washington Nationals selected Strasburg and signed the 21-year-old right-hander, at as close-to-the-last minute as possible, to a 4-year/$15.1 million dollar deal, the richest ever given to a draft pick by a major league team. So far, again, according to anonymous sources, or as Miami Herald.com writer Barry Jackson writes in the Chatter section of an article entitled, "Miami Dolphins receivers are inspired by underdog status", "According to what we hear," that's about what's being offered to Chapman by the Marlins, who joined the Red Sox this weekend as the first two teams to publicly declare their interest in signing Chapman:

"The Marlins have made a five-year offer, in the $13 million range, for ballyhooed left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman...South Florida could be appealing to him, but a few bigger-revenue teams figure to dangle more..."

The Red Sox, who clearly fit the definition of a "bigger-revenue team", have reportedly offered Aroldis Chapman a $15.5 million dollar contract. Representatives from 15 teams watched Chapman throw bullpen sessions last week, with teams around the league sending scouts and two teams (the local Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals) sending their GM's to have closer look at the lefty. DC GM Mike Rizzo told fans last week in a chat at the Nationals' official site, that he came away impressed:

"Aroldis is an extremely talented, athletic left-handed pitcher with a ceiling as high as any current amateur pitcher in the world. He has great arm strength and velocity on his fastball and is just in his infancy as a frontline Major League prospect."

Houston Astros' GM Ed Wade was there because the Chapman sessions took place in Houston...why was Mike Rizzo the only other GM in attendance? Do the Nationals see this as a chance to jumpstart the rebuild by adding the two top pitching prospects on the market in the same year? A year in which they also, once again, have the No.1 pick in the draft? Can a team that's struggled as long as the Washington Nationals (nee Montreal Expos) have, afford to pass up a chance to add this kind of pitching talent? Does Rizzo saying that Chapman is, "...in his infancy as a frontline Major League prospect," remind you of the way Washington downplayed the hype on Strasburg, describing him as being no different from other pitching prospects...? The latest estimate for Chapman? Baseball Prospectus' writer Kevin Goldstein sent out the following twitter message on December 16th '09:

"Numbers on Aroldis Chapman seem to be moving up -- one insider just predicted we could get to $30M."

The Nationals were willing to go to $15.1 million for Strasburg, who earned his reputation mainly against college players, though he'd also seen international competition as the only collegiate player to pitch for the '08 US Olympic team...How high should the Nationals go if they decide to pursue Aroldis Chapman, who's earned his rep in the Cuban National League and in international play in the WBC? 

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