Hey Mark, I'm sure I'm not the only one to ask this, but where did the Reds get $30 million to sign Aroldis Chapman? Especially since it seems like there's been a lot of talk this offseason about how the Reds are short on cash. Don't get me wrong, I'm really excited to see what he's capable of, but where did they get the money and how did they beat out the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, etc.? -- John S., San Francisco, Calif.
It was the first question I asked myself when this first went down. As it turns out, the Reds have worked the deal so it has very little effect on the 2010 big league roster payroll. Much of the money is deferred over 10 years and much of it also comes out of the separate budget reserved for amateur and international player signing bonuses. As for beating out the bigger market clubs, the Reds offered something the Yankees and Red Sox couldn't -- a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in 2010. The other teams seemed to have a slower timetable and stocked rotations.
With Chapman now with the Reds, when do you think he will be in the Major Leagues? Do you know what Minor League level he will start at? When he comes to the Majors, will he become a reliever or a starter? -- Antonio P.,
The Reds feel he is a starter and are planning on him eventually being in the rotation. As for when, which everybody wants to know, it depends largely on how quickly he acclimates and how he performs on the mound. Having him begin 2010 in the Majors isn't out of the question, but he won't be rushed. He's also an unpolished product that must show he can command the strike zone and throw secondary pitches beyond the reputed fastball.
Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Chapman and Mike Leake are the future of this potentially great rotation. What does this mean for Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo? -- Michael M., Fort Thomas, Ky.
In the short term, nothing. Leake and Chapman haven't pitched an inning yet in the Majors and are likely to start 2010 in the Minors. Volquez is injured and won't be ready for a while. If the Reds are in the race in July and Harang and Arroyo are pitching well, you don't move them.
Have a question about the Reds?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Reds beat reporter Mark Sheldon for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
In the long term, there's a good chance one or both of them are gone. If the Reds are out of contention in July and they're pitching reasonably well, they can be deadline trade chips. Both are in the final guaranteed years of their contracts. If their club options are declined, the Reds save $24 million that can go toward adding someone or to pay their own players that have raises coming like Brandon Phillips' multiyear contract, or for Cueto, who is arbitration-eligible next winter.
OK, on to the non-Chapman portion of this Inbox.
I recently read a quote from Brandon Webb stating, "We've had a great time in Arizona, and if everything works out and we stay here, that would be good. But to get back close to home [in Kentucky] would be just as good. I'm definitely keeping it open. I'm not going to hold myself down to just Arizona." What should Reds fans make of this? -- Brian F., Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Sure, he is from relatively close Ashland, Ky., but I wouldn't advise purchasing a Webb Reds jersey just yet. Keep in mind from a question above that the Reds could have a very stocked young rotation next year. Health is also a question since he lasted all of four innings on Opening Day 2009 before a shoulder injury put him out for the season. And keep in mind that his hometown is also not terribly far from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Washington and Baltimore too. But Cincinnati is the closest, and Webb is someone certainly worth putting in the wait-and-see file.
What do you think about the Reds hiring former greats like Barry Larkin, Sean Casey and Rob Dibble as coaches and/or consultants? I know Eric Davis has done it in the past. Personally, I believe that bringing back guys that have won in Cincinnati would help change the culture of this club in many ways. -- Jason S., North Baltimore, Ohio
It's not out of the question, but all three already have jobs. Larkin and Casey work as analysts for MLB Network (and do a great job) and Dibble is a broadcaster for the Nationals.
Reds of the past do work for the organization. Davis still works as an instructor and Tom Browning, Mario Soto and Todd Benzinger are among those also currently employed by the team.
We always hear about Cincinnati trying to make payroll and trading players. How is it that St. Louis (a town of equal size) can sign players like Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, etc ... but we look to trade when players get valuable? -- Harold B., French Lick, Ind.
What valuable players have the Reds traded lately to make payroll? Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and others are still around the last time I checked. And they just committed $30 million to the most coveted Cuban pitcher in an open bidding process, as unproven as he is. As for the Cardinals being able to spend more, they also draw around 3 million fans every year. They're usually in the top 10 in team revenues, which makes it possible for them to be near the top 10 in payroll most seasons. They were 13th in Opening Day payroll last season at $88 million, while the Reds were 20th at $70 million.
With at least eight potential left fielders (Juan Francisco, Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, Chris Dickerson, Wladimir Balentien, Laynce Nix, Chris Burke and Josh Anderson), how are the Reds going to give them all enough playing time in Spring Training to assess who is ready for the starting job on Opening Day? That's a lot of guys for one spot. -- Bob P., Old Saybrook, Conn.
With Cactus League games, split-squad games, intrasquad games and Minor League games, finding enough playing time is rarely a problem. It was a similar situation last spring when Dickerson, Nix, Jerry Hairston Jr., Jonny Gomes, Jacque Jones and Darnell McDonald were among the outfielders in camp. It always works itself out by the end.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.