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Could Aroldis Chapman be the Final Piece for the Red Sox?

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In the jigsaw puzzle that has become the Red Sox mission to acquire Adrian Gonzalez, it seems like the final missing piece could be Aroldis Chapman.

Let’s look at what pieces have fallen in place for the Red Sox so far:

  • Jed Hoyer became the new Padres’ GM, giving the Red Sox a familiar face to deal with in trade negotiations.
  • According to MLB Trade Rumors, Reports say that it will take only two prospects, albeit great ones, to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. It’s said that Hoyer is seeking starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and one of Casey Kelly or Ryan Westmoreland.
  • Red Sox trade Mike Lowell to Rangers for catching prospect Max Ramirez, which opens up a corner infield spot on the starting roster. While this trade is currently held up by a thumb injury, it is clear the Red Sox have alternate plans for first and third base.
  • Red Sox sign John Lackey to a 5-year, $82.5 million contract making Clay Buchholz expendable as the fifth starter.
  • Red Sox sign Mike Cameron to a 2-year, $15 million contract, which could make Jacoby Ellsbury expendable in a potential trade for Gonzalez.

Through these acquisitions the Red Sox have acquired a surplus at SP, CF and C and, coincidentally, the Padres are in the market for just those positions. Could Aroldis Chapman be the missing piece the Red Sox need before pulling off a major trade that would bring the slugger to Boston? Let’s investigate further.

Who is Chapman?

Chapman is a wiry 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, but packs some heat with a fastball that has been clocked at 102 mph. He is just 22 years old and pitched most recently in the World Baseball Classic where he posted an unimpressive 5.68 ERA and struck out eight batters in 6 1/3 innings. While his potential is sky-high, his skills are very raw and any team that signs him would definitely be taking on a project rather than a MLB-ready prospect. He has been compared to Stephen Strasburg because of his age and Randy Johnson because of his style. He is a lefty, power pitcher, who could become a great talent in the majors if he can get better command on his pitches. One scout told ESPN’s Jorge Arangure Jr. that Chapman is one of the three-best pitchers in the world not in the MLB, with the other two presumably being Strasburg and Japan’s Yu Darvish.

Will the Red Sox sign Chapman?

It’s worth noting that the Red Sox have been the only team to make an offer to Chapman, for $15.5 million, so far this off-season. However, Chapman has since fired his agent and hired a new one so we don’t know where the new duo stands exactly, but it has been reported that Chapman was impressed with his visit to Fenway Park. The only team that could really stand in the way is, of course, the New York Yankees, who could offer him $20 million and not think twice about it.

The Red Sox don’t have a pressing need for the lefty prospect, but signing him could give the team flexibility to trade other prospects in a future trade for Adrian Gonzalez. It’s clear that both Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have developed man crushes on Casey Kelly and although Kelly has been deemed untouchable by the Red Sox front office, it could be very possible that the addition of Chapman would loosen their grip on the 19-year old prospect. He could be the one player who could pry Adrian Gonzalez away from the Padres and it would definitely be worth it.

Parting Thoughts

It’s clear that the Red Sox are setting themselves up to make another move because if the Lowell trade goes through, they will not start the 2010 season with a Casey Kotchman/Victor Martinez platoon at first base. That being said, if they choose to sign Adrian Beltre the Red Sox will take themselves out of the running for Adrian Gonzalez because they will have both first base and third base locked up for the next four years. The only other scenario would be to move Youkilis to left field, which is a long shot. The Red Sox could also go the short-term route and sign either Nick Johnson or Mark DeRosa, but injury concerns could put the Red Sox in a bad situation next season.

It’s now or never so the Red Sox should decide whether they are going to compete with pitching and defense or if they want to significantly upgrade their offense for the future.

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