Sat, Jul 04, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Yankees may be among Cuban defector’s suitors

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Once pitcher Aroldis Chapman defected from the Cuban national team in the Netherlands on Thursday, speculation instantly began over which major league club would sign him and how much money he would command.

The Yankees, who have been at the forefront of signing international pitchers, will have discussions about whether they should pursue the left-handed Chapman.

He fires a fastball that exceeds 100mph and is widely considered the premier pitching prospect in Cuba. His age was reported on Thursday as 21, but reports in March at the World Baseball Classic said he was 26.

Bart Hernandez, an agent who is hoping to represent Chapman, said Chapman threw 100mph and 101mph.

“If he polishes up his changeup and tightens up his slider, he can be a young Randy Johnson,” Hernandez said.

Chapman had a 5.68 earned run average over six-and-a-third innings in the World Baseball Classic.

He was in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with the Cubans for a tournament, but left the hotel. Chapman’s defection was first reported by www.cubaencuentro.com.

Hernandez theorized that Chapman could seek a four-year deal worth between US$30 million and US$60 million, which would limit the teams that pursue him.

“You have to look at the big-market teams,” Hernandez said.

Because the Yankees do not know how much Chapman will seek, beneral manager Brian Cashman declined comment.

The last time the Yankees dipped into the international pitching market, they signed Kei Igawa to a four-year, US$20 million deal in 2006.

He was ineffective at the major league level and has been marooned at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.

After Jose Contreras defected from the Cuban team in 2002, the Yankees signed him to a four-year, US$32 million contract. Contreras faltered and was shipped to the Chicago White Sox in 2004. However, Orlando Hernandez, another Cuban defector, was a valuable player when the team won titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

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