Yanks trying to set up a private workout for Chapman

Aroldis Chapman breaking off a slider

Via Jorge Arangure (Insider req’d), the Yankees are trying to set up a private visit with Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman in Miami. The Yanks had someone attend Chapman’s workout in Houston on Tuesday, and according to Arangure, the southpaw looked pretty good. The weather was an issue – he ended up throwing off a wooden mound inside while wearing sneakers – yet he still hit 97 while working mostly at 92-93, and flashed a better delivery than before.

“He had a hitch in his lower body that caused his delivery to be inconsistent,” [agent Rodney] Fernandez, a former minor league pitcher in the Marlins system, said. “Teams were amazed at how quickly he’s been able to make the adjustments.”

Chapman also appears to have added some muscle to his wiry frame, likely the result of being on a better diet and conditioning program. Several clubs apparently noted that his reputation as being an immature kid is inaccurate.

“He’s a good kid and he doesn’t deserve the negative image that has been put on him,” Fernandez said. “He showed the baseball world what type of person he is. There has been some negativity about his personality, but he’s a mature kid. He wants to play in the World Series.”

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus spoke to one baseball person that thinks Chapman could pull in as much as $30M, but I’m sticking to my $18-20M prediction. The Hendricks Brothers are now officially accepting offers, however they’re being sued by Chapman’s former agent Edwin Mejia, who got the boot last month. Because Mejia has been designated as Chapman’s sponsor per the conditions of his visa, it’s possible (though unlikely) the lefty may end up back in Andorra if his visa is revoked.

Regardless of how all that legal stuff plays out, the Yanks are clearly interested in adding Chapman’s powerful arm to their organization. The Red Sox have already made a ~$15M offer to his previous agent, and considering that there were about fifteen totals teams in attendance during his workout, you an be sure the Yanks will have some competition for his services.

Photo Credit: Gregory Bull, AP

Breaking News: Chapman is a risk

In piece for SI.com, Melissa Segura wrote about how Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman first got involved with baseball and how he ultimately came to defect, though more importantly she touched on the weaknesses in his game. If you don’t have time to read the 3,000 word article, then check out The Artist’s recap at TYU. I highly recommend checking out Seguara’s original article, though.

This is a common MSM timeline for these perceived super-prospects. First comes the absurd amount of hype, then comes the poo-pooing of their game by emphasizing their weaknesses, and the final stage is the subtle admission that the guy is extremely talented, but not perfect.  Stephen Strasburg went through it, Justin Upton went through it, Joe Mauer went through, even A-Rod went through it. Chapman is riskier than most, but the potential reward is the greatest we’ve seen for an international amateur since Felix Hernandez.

What’s next for Aroldis Chapman?

After changing agents, there’s some questions about what’s next for Aroldis Chapman, but lucky Jorge Arangure is here to answer some of those questions. Chapman’s new representatives – the Hendricks Brothers – have him focusing solely on baseball, meaning there will be fewer interviews and appearances, and obviously they have more experience than his previous agent, the small-time Edwin Mejia. Of course, Mejia is likely to pursue some legal action since he’s going to lose out on a huge commission, though he probably won’t be able to do much more than recoup expenses.

One GM told Peter Gammons that dropping Mejia after he helped Chapman defect and become a free agent raised character questions, which is understandable. However, Mejia’s agency did post pictures of Chapman at a strip club on it’s Facebook page, which is kinda not cool considering the guy is trying to land a multi-million dollar contract and would (presumably) like to maintain a family friendly image. In the end, talent is talent, and if Lastings Milledge can still get taken in the first round after allegedly sexually assaulting a classmate, Chapman will still get his.

Aroldis Chapman changes representation

ESPN.com’s Jorge Arangure Jr. has the headline: “Cuban defector Chapman fires agent.” That’s what I saw earlier this afternoon. My first thought, of course, is that he opted for Scott Boras. That’s not the case, thankfully. After Chapman fired his former agent, Edwin Mejia — who helped Chapman with the MLB procedure to file for eligibility — he signed on with the Hendricks Brothers. Yankees fans are familiar with Randy and Alan, who represent Andy Pettitte. Several teams have expressed interest in Chapman, but lately we’ve seen speculation that it will be a two-horse race between the Yankees and Red Sox.

Looking at two free agent amateur lefties

Keith Law’s list of the Top 50 Free Agents hit the tubes yesterday, and mixed among the Matt Hollidays and John Lackeys and Placido Polancos of the free agent world were two amateur lefthanders that won’t necessarily make an impact in the big leagues next year, but would still be a wise investment for some team(s).

First up is the guy you all know, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman. He comes in at number five on KLaw’s list:

Chapman is the wild card of the free-agent market, as his track record is largely unknown, he’s barely thrown for clubs since defecting and he’s represented by agents who haven’t handled a free agent of this magnitude before. When Chapman is on, he’ll show No. 1 starter stuff, with a fastball in the mid-90s (and yes, as high as 101 mph) with good tail and a mid-80s slider that will show plus with legitimate tilt, although the latter pitch isn’t consistent. He does have a soft changeup but lacks feel for it and pushes it out of his hand rather than selling it with good arm speed. His command isn’t good, and he’s more thrower than pitcher, with a very loose arm that makes the velocity come out easily. Since defecting, he has worked on his body and scouts who’ve seen him recently say he’s stronger and in better overall shape. He might be a No. 1 starter; he might be an ace closer; he might be a mountain of frustration. Is that worth $60 million? Or the fourth- or fifth-biggest contract of the offseason? Not to me, but he’s worth some eight-figure amount because of the almost limitless upside.

We do know that the Yanks’ brass met with Chapman during Game Six of the ALCS, although we don’t know the nature of the meetings. For what it’s worth, Chapman has met with a bunch of other teams as well, including the Mets and Red Sox.

I’m still not convinced Chapman will get the $50-60M that’s been rumored. He’ll surely get more than the $15.1M deal Stephen Strasburg got because he’s a true free agent, but in the end he’s still just a raw 21-year-old kid that’s not quiet Major League ready. Realistically, there’s not much of a difference between Chapman and what Andrew Brackman was coming out of college. Brackman had the elbow issue, sure, but the scouting report was pretty similar. Of course Chapman’s a lefty, which is a plus.

The second amateur pitcher on KLaw’s list is another Cuban southpaw, 19-year-old Noel Arguelles. He checks in at number ten:

Arguelles defected from the Cuban junior national team with current Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias in the summer of 2008 and is just now at the point where he’s ready and able to sign with a major league team. Arguelles is 19 and already pitches with a solid-average fastball, although before he defected he had worked as high as 91-94 and will probably return there once he’s throwing on a regular schedule again. His changeup projects better than his curveball, with the change a potentially plus pitch. What everyone notices about Arguelles is his body — loose, lean, athletic, with good projection; his new agents took him underground for a few weeks to get him back into playing shape and the results have definitely impressed. If he was an American high school or junior college player, he’d be a solid first-rounder with a chance to be a top-10 guy and would probably be a $4 million bonus baby. As a free agent, he should easily double that.

Here’s a clip of Arguelles throwing a bullpen, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus’ Kiley McDaniel. The Yanks have been connected to Arguelles in the past, on more than one occasion too.

Chapman gets all the hype, but Arguelles is no slouch. In fact, if you’re talking bang for the buck, Arguelles at say $8M is probably a better value than Chapman at $20M. There would also be less pressure to get him to big leagues as quickly as possible. Klaw’s scouting report makes him sound a lot like Manny Banuelos, though he looked to be a little taller with more room to fill out than the 5′-10″, 160 lb Banuelos. I doubt he’s as polished as Banuelos though, few kids that age are.

While the amateur draft gets most of the attention, the Yanks have done a tremendous job bringing in lesser known, but still high caliber international free agents on reasonable contracts. For some reason, Cuban defectors cost more than their Dominican or Venezuelan counterparts, even though the skill set and level of polish may be the same. Maybe it has to do with the level of competition faced, which is negligible in most of Latin American, but pretty good in Cuba (although not as good as it had been in years past).

Although my knowledge of both Chapman and Arguelles is elementary at best, it seems like it would be wiser to take the money that could be used to sign Chapman, and instead sign Arguelles plus some other players, maybe even a Major League free agent. Of course, we’re talking about the Yankees here, so they can afford to do both. What do you think?

Late-night reading: Aroldis Chapman, profiled

The winter sports team in New York are making it hard to forget about baseball season. After tonight, the Knicks and Nets are a combined 1-18, and the Giants and Jets are mediocre at best right now. So for those of you jonesing for a late-night baseball fix, check out Ronald Blum’s interview with Aroldis Chapman. The New York-based AP sports writer sat down with the latest Cuban defector to talk about baseball. Chapman discusses walking away from his life in Cuban by simply exiting a hotel in Rotterdam and his experiences watching Game 6 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.

With the Hot Stove still to warm up this winter, we haven’t heard much about Chapman. We know what he can throw, and we know that he has visited with a good number of teams. We don’t, however, have a sense of the dollars or years it will take to sign him, and rumors have ranged from $15-$50 million. I don’t expect the Chapman talks to heat up until the Winter Meetings next month in Indianapolis, but when they do, you can bet that the Yanks will be right there in the thick of things.

Yanks met with Chapman during Game Six

While the current Yankees were busy clinching a trip to the World Series last night, a potential future Yankee was busy meeting with GM Brian Cashman and several club officials. Cuban southpaw Aroldis Chapman attended Game Six as a fan (and as a “guest of the team“), and apparently at some point sat down with the braintrust and had what Jorge Arangure called “good conversations.” For what it’s worth, Chapman has already spoken to the Mets at CitiField.

Now that Yusei Kikuchi is staying in Japan, Chapman is easily the most coveted amateur player in the world. Speculation is that he’ll get $40-60MM, but I bet he “settles” for closer to $20M. Signing a completely unproven pitcher to that kind of cash could be career suicide.