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Do the Red Sox Need Aroldis Chapman?

Josh Beckett. Jon Lester. John Lackey. Daisuke Matsuzaka. Clay Buchholz. Each of these players, on any other team except the Yankees would be at or near the top of the rotation. Lester, Lackey and Dice-K are signed through at least 2012. Depending on this season, Beckett could see an extension coming his way. Buchholz could get dealt, resigned or even let go.

At worst, there are three great starters (even Daisuke) locked up until 2012. With Casey Kelly progressing well through the system, decent outings from young guys like Junichi Tazawa and Michael Bowden, do we really need the 22 year old Cuban-defector flamethrower?

The short answer is no. The long answer is, well, maybe.

There's no doubt the story of Aroldis Chapman is riveting. Born to a boxing trainer, Chapman decided to start playing Baseball when his best friend pressured him into playing first base. He switched to pitcher and never looked back since. He failed on his first defection attempt, was forced to meet with Raul Castro, was suspended from play and then suddenly reactivated. On July 1, 2009, Chapman walked out the front door of his team's Rotterdam hotel, got into his friend's car, and suddenly became a free man, and more importantly a free agent.

Its a great story. From his daughter who was born days before his defection, to the miracle that was him being allowed to hold on to his passport when arriving in Rotterdam. One day, he'll make a great character in a movie.

But, the question remains, will he make a great pitcher? Will he be, as he aspires to be, the greatest pitcher in the game? Nobody knows. Purportedly, Chapman's fastball tops 100 MPH on a good day, yet he has very little control over it. He has a large repertoire, but doesn't do much of it spectacularly. Due to the fact that he arrived with nothing more than a pack of cigarettes in his possession, no one even knows his medical history (although its unlikely he's ever sustained an injury, having completed ever season he's had the opportunity to).

The scouts agree that with enough time spent working on the mechanics and maturity in the minors, he really could be something special. Comparisons abound to top draft pick Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg might be more polished an majors-ready (he's likely the Nats top starter) but Chapman's stuff could be just as good.

Chapman, however, doesn't want to spend his first few years in the minors. He wants to be the best...today. But if he really wants to be a force in the bigs, the first thing he needs to learn is patience.

So, is Aroldis Chapman worth the effort for Boston?

I would argue, for $15.5M, sure. For more then $20M, no chance. This is a player who is, at best, a prospect. He's a good year from the majors at least. There are things to fix, adjustments to make, and attitudes to change. If all goes according to plan, he could be unlike anything seen in baseball before.

He could help bolster a somewhat wavering selection of pitching prospects. Eventually, he could be a great Fenway Park draw, with a competitive personality and a confident swagger that makes him sound like a combination of Papelbon and Pedro. This guy really thinks he's the best. Does that sound like someone I'd want on the mount for 6-8 innings? Absolutely.

If not, he'll just be a great story and a reach fantasy pick. He'll put the Sox over the luxury cap and we'll get nothing real in return. The mechanics will fall apart and he'll never master his repertoire. His attitude will flame up, the Sox will play him too soon, and the rising star will quickly be extinguished. 

I think if the Sox can get him under 20, I say go for it. There are so many questions, the money is worth the process of answering them. Anymore than that, I'd say let the Angels have fun with him.

What do you think?

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