Saturday, February 13, 2016

Phillies have interest in Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman

He likely wouldn't be ready to contribute on Opening Day. And there's a chance he won't set foot on a big league mound in 2010. But you can add at least one intriguing name to Ruben Amaro Jr.'s wish list in his hunt for pitching this offseason.

Phillies have interest in Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman

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Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies are one of several teams keeping an eye on Cuban defector Ardolis Chapman, (Ron Tarver/Staff file photo)
Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies are one of several teams keeping an eye on Cuban defector Ardolis Chapman, (Ron Tarver/Staff file photo)

He likely wouldn't be ready to contribute on Opening Day. And there's a chance he won't set foot on a big league mound in 2010. But you can add at least one intriguing name to Ruben Amaro Jr.'s wish list in his hunt for pitching this offseason.

The Phillies are one of a number of teams who have been keeping a close eye on Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, according to league sources familiar with the team's thinking. And while the club is uncertain about how the market for the hard-throwing 21-year-old lefthander will develop, his raw physical ability has piqued their interest.

Phillies representatives, like those of most major league teams, have seen Chapman pitch a couple of times over the last year, including in San Diego in March when he started for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic. His main selling point is a fastball that has been clocked as high as 102 miles per hour, an aberation for a left-handed pitcher. And while he struggles at times with his command - in his one WBC start in San Diego, he allowed three runs and walked three in 2 1/3 innings - many scouts who have seen him pitch believe he has the ability to some day pitch near the top of a major league rotation.

But there are plenty of unknowns about Chapman, from his command to the obvious lifestyle changes that will confront a young man who has recently fled the only country he has ever known.

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And the Phillies, along with most other teams in baseball, are unsure about his price tag. Numerous clubs, including the Yankees and Red Sox, have been reported to have interest in Chapman. ESPN.com recently quoted one MLB executive who predicted that Chapman would land a deal in line with the four-year, $15.1 million deal that Stephen Strasburg, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft, signed with the Nationals.

Chapman defected during a trip by the Cuban national team to Amsterdam in July and has since changed agents, from the relatively unknown Edward Mejia to the well-established Hendricks brothers.

The Phillies would like to watch Chapman throw at some point in the coming months, a workout that certainly would involve some of the organization's key decision-makers.

At this point, the club's interest in the young lefty is still very much wait-and-see. But in a pitching-starved market, the situation is one worth monitoring.

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