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.

Yanks meeting with Chapman delayed

Once we found out that Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman was coming to New York to speak with various GM’s about potential employment, it was only a matter of time before we heard the Yanks were scheduled to meet with him. Well, as ESPN’s Jorge Arangure tweets, the Yanks meeting with the southpaw was pushed back because the ALCS is running a little long. Don’t worry, I’m sure Chapman and his agent will give the filthy stinkin’ rich Yankees every opportunity to bid for his services before making a decision.

Linkage: Chapman, Kikuchi, HOF, PitchFX

A bevy of links that warrant a mention, but not their own posts…

  • As you’ve probably heard by now, Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman is in New York to visit with several GM’s. Both the Yankees and Mets are expected to meet with him,  and the Red Sox definitely will. Speculation is that he’ll get $40-50M, but I bet he ends with closer to $15M. In the end, he’s still just a minor league pitcher that’s a year or two away from the big leagues.
  • In other amateur lefthanded pitcher news, Japanese teenager Yusei Kikuchi may announce his intentions to either stay in Japan or come to the States in the coming days. Ben wrote a bunch more about Kikuchi and the Yanks over the weekend.
  • Who do you think is a better Hall of Fame candidate: Johnny Damon, or Bobby Abreu? Rob Neyer thinks it’s Damon, I’m going with Bobby. There’s only 40 players in the history of the game that have reached base 4,000 times in their career, and 38 of those players are in the HOF, or will be soon. Abreu should reach that total within three years.
  • This isn’t Yankee related, but it’s a great piece on Cardinals assistant GM John Abbamondi, who discusses the place of advanced analysis in baseball. Nick Steiner at THT highlights part of the article where Abbamondi talks about how they use PitchFX data to supplement the evaluations of their scouts. Fascinating stuff.

Link Dump: Aroldis Chapman Edition

Cuban southpaw Aroldis Chapman is primed to be a hot topic this winter, and just like with every other big name free agent, the Yankees figure to be interested in his services. Let’s round up the latest news surrounding the 21-yr old…

  • Major League Baseball officially declared Chapman a free agent over the weekend, so he could technically sign with any team today, if he wanted.
  • Back in July when he originally defected, I asked Keith Law what he thought about him during one of his ESPN chats. Here’s what he said: “I talked to a longtime scout – I mean, been at this 40 years – in the spring who said he was the best young LHP he’d ever seen. On good days he’ll touch 100 with a slider in the upper 80s, but he hasn’t been that guy every time out – I talked to another scout who saw him last year, I believe in Beijing, who had him topping out around 90 – and there are all kinds of rumors as to why. The upside probably puts him into $40-50 million territory, if not more …”
  • Here’s the PitchFX data for Chapman’s start against Japan in this year’s World Baseball Classic. As you can see, he topped out at 100.2 mph, but it looks like he tired because his velo dropped after 40 pitches or so. That’s not a really big concern, no one’s in tip-top shape in March.
  • Clay Davenport at Baseball Prospectus used some historical data translate Chapman’s stats in Cuba to the low levels of the minors here, and while the 9.3 K/9 is pretty, the 2.5 HR/9 and 7.4 BB/9 are awful. However, four of his closest statistical comps (Brian Fuentes, Mike Gonzalez, Scott Linebrink, and Oliver Perez) have gone on to have varying degrees of big league success.
  • Chapman would probably rank as one of the top 25 prospects in the game according to Baseball America’s Jim Callis, although he wouldn’t supplant Jesus Montero as the Yanks’ top farmhand. No one tops the Jesus.
  • And last, but certainly not least, here’s a clip of the kid in action.