MLB: AP source: Reds reach deal with LHP Chapman
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman has agreed to a deal with the Cincinnati Reds, ending one of the biggest questions in baseball this offseason.
A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press about the agreement on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract hadn’t been finalized. Yahoo! Sports was the first to report the deal.
Chapman gained notoriety during the World Baseball Classic in March, when he pitched well against Australia and badly against Japan. With a 100 mph fastball, he is considered by scouts to be among the top pitching prospects in the world, but there are questions about his readiness for the majors.
Chapman threw a bullpen session for major league teams in Houston last month, and the Toronto Blue Jays, Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox also were thought to be among his potential suitors.
It’s a surprising move for the small-market Reds, who were expected to trim their opening-day payroll from the $71 million it had last season. Cincinnati drew 1.7 million fans during its ninth straight losing season, its smallest attendance since 1986.
The Reds gave third baseman Scott Rolen a two-year contract extension last month that guaranteed him an additional $13 million but converted almost half of his 2010 salary to a deferred signing bonus.
Chapman was a first baseman primarily until he was 15 or 16, when a school pitching coach suggested he convert. By the 2005 season, he was 18 and pitching for Holguin in the Cuban national league.
He defected last July, leaving the Cuban national team after it arrived in the Netherlands for a tournament. He then established residency in Andorra so he could choose his team as a free agent and not be subject to baseball’s draft.
Chapman’s original representative filed a lawsuit against his current agent in Massachusetts state court last month, claiming Hendricks Sports Management illegally lured him away from Athletes Premier International and agent Edwin Mejia.
The suit accuses Hendricks of tortious interference and unjust enrichment, claiming Athletes Premier “invested substantial time and hundreds of thousands of dollars” on Chapman’s behalf to help him defect, establish residency in Andorra and begin negotiating with major league teams.
The Hendricks agency has called the lawsuit “pure fiction and self delusion.”