Reds reportedly sign free-agent Cuban pitcher

Monday, January 11, 2010

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, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract hadn't been finalized, said a deal had been reached Sunday. The Reds called a news conference for today.

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 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 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.

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