The Washington Nationals were reportedly in the mix back when left-hander Aroldis Chapman was available as an amateur free agent out of Cuba in 2010. Chapman signed a 6-year/$30.25M deal with the Cincinnati Reds that January, but the Nationals thought they had a chance to sign the southpaw.
"We had the second-highest offer on the table,'" Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told Washington Post writer Chico Harlan that winter.
"'He paused," Harlan noted, "and added, 'We thought it was first.'"
"We had a private workout with him," Stan Kasten told the WaPost reporter. "'[Rizzo] liked him as much as any young left-hander he's ever seen.'"
Rizzo went into detail explaining why he thought Chapman was worth what would have been a significant financial investment:
"All the accolades and the velocities you've heard about are true,'" Rizzo said.
"'We see a huge upsided pitcher. There's some risk involved, of course, but this was a chance to get a front-of-the-rotation pitcher with an unlimited ceiling. And as you know, No. 1 starters are very difficult to find. Either you develop them ourselves or you pay dearly for them in free agency. The Lerners and Stan were very supportive of our front office staff. We did our due diligence, and the Lerners allowed us to make a very, very, very attractive offer to him."
Chapman's name has come up in connection with the Nationals over the last few seasons as well.
This past July, Rizzo reportedly inquired as to the hard-throwing lefty's availability again before pulling the trigger on Jonathan Papelbon.
"Rizzo’s top choices as trade targets were two of the best closers in the game, Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman and San Diego’s Craig Kimbrel," Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga wrote.
After talking to the Reds and Padres, however, Rizzo decided that the cost was prohibitive.
"The Reds and Padres each wanted two of the Nationals’ top five prospects. Rizzo moved on," Svrluga explained.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote this morning that after inquiring about Chapman and other closer options, the Detroit Tigers "balked" at the asking price and moved on to Milwaukee Brewers' right-hander Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez.
With the teams in the market for closers this winter like the Boston Red Sox and Tigers acquiring Craig Kimbrel and Rodriguez, respectively, will the Reds' asking price for Chapman eventually come down?
MLB.com's Richard Justice wrote on Tuesday about the Nats as a potential suitor for the flame-throwing closer who saved 33 games for the Reds last season, posting a 1.63 ERA, a 1.94 FIP, 33 walks (4.48 BB/9) and 116 Ks (15.74 K/9) in 65 games and 66 ⅓ innings pitched.
The downside or the drawbacks?
Chapman earned $8.05M in 2015 and according to MLBTraderumors.com's projections, the lefty could get as much as $12.9M in arbitration this winter in what will be his last year before free agency, so any team willing to give up significant prospects would probably want to talk extension first.
But do the Nationals make sense as a trade partner?
"This fit is better than it appears on the surface," Justice wrote, noting that the Nationals have, "the kind of Minor League depth the Reds are seeking."
With both Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon on the roster for now, and the Nationals, as far as Rizzo has said publicly, willing to go into the 2016 campaign with both in the Nats' bullpen, "Chapman would not seem to be the most logical fit, but Rizzo likes to think big and will consider plenty of options in an offseason of change for the Nats."
New Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker was also Chapman's first major league manager, Justice notes, and, "[a]cquiring Chapman would allow Rizzo to trade Storen or Papelbon for help elsewhere," or, Rizzo could add Chapman, keep Storen and Papelbon, "... line up the three of them for the final three innings," out of the bullpen and, ".. a shaky area for the Nationals could be one of the most dominant in baseball."