By Bill Chastain | MLB.com
Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman arrived in New York on Wednesday seeking the opportunity to sign with a Major League team and cash in on what the market might yield for a 21-year-old left-hander with top-of-the-rotation potential, according to multiple reports.
Chapman showcased his abilities for Cuba in March during the World Baseball Classic before defecting this summer when Cuba played in a tournament in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. After defecting, Chapman established residency in Andorra. Several teams had planned to see Chapman throw in Europe, but upon the advice of his agent, Edwin Mejia, he decided to apply for a visa and come to the United States to showcase his abilities.
Chapman stands 6-foot-4 and throws with an easy motion that has reportedly produced fastballs clocked as high as 102 mph. He also is said to have a quality curve and slider. New York will likely be the first of many stops for Chapman, who should land a substantial deal based on the relatively weak crop of available free-agent starters this coming offseason.
The Yankees and the Red Sox, among other teams, are reported to have interest in signing Chapman, bringing back memories of a similar competition between the two American League East giants to sign Jose Contreras in 2002. The Cuban right-hander eventually signed a four-year deal worth $32 million with the Yankees.
Despite Chapman’s many tools, he is considered somewhat of an unknown commodity and could need some refinement in the Minor Leagues before moving to the Major League level.
During the World Baseball Classic, Chapman had a 5.68 ERA in 6 1/3 innings, and in the National Series in Cuba in 2008 he posted a 4.03 ERA in 118 1/3 innings.
“Until now, everything has come out fine,” Chapman told the Web site cubaencuentro.com. “This is the plan that I had and this was a decision I took. I wanted to test myself in the highest levels of baseball.”