First, let's talk about Chapman's stuff. He reportedly throws 100 mph (smoke tinges the words with each keystroke). No problem there. He's also left-handed. That's always a plus. He's 21-years-young (give or take a few years). No problem there. He has control problems. Uh oh.
Chapman allowed 5.37 walks per nine innings in Cuba. Last I checked, that wasn't very good. Now, yes, we've all seen pitchers get better command as time goes on. A quick look at Randy Johnson's career reveals an atrocious walk rate early in his career, and then an exceptional walk rate at the end.
In fact, Randy Johnson's name has been thrown around a lot lately. He's been retired for only a few days, and already people are expecting some kid from Cuba to be "The Next Randy." Let's not forget, Randy Johnson's a certain first ballot Hall of Famer. He's one of the top 5 pitchers of all-time. And we're comparing an unproven 6'4" defector to him, simply because he's left-handed, throws hard, and has terrible command?
It's symptomatic of a general problem in the baseball world, and the world in general. When judging someone or something, we look for shortcuts. We say a person reminds us of another person because it instantly delivers information. But that person is an entirely different person. Chapman is his own being. He's not Randy Johnson and shouldn't be compared to him. It's not fair to Chapman or Johnson, and it doesn't deliver enough meaningful information.
Back to walk rates, Chapman may very well have a long and successful career. He certainly has the raw ability. But the problem with raw ability is that you don't know what the finished product will look like. Instead of going down, his walk rate may instead increase. Nobody really knows what will happen. The Reds just gave a lot of money to a guy who is a "maybe."
Since he was on the open market, the bidding war resulted in this contract. Some will say this is his fair market value. I think it's too much money, but the market says otherwise.
A few of my teammates emailed me saying this is a problem. Some foreign players such as Chapman are able to use this open-market system to their advantage while Americans, Canadians and Puerto Ricans are subject to a draft. A phenom such as Stephen Strasburg had no control over who picked him in the draft. Once taken, he could only negotiate with a single team. While he was paid handsomely, there was no bidding war. On the open market he would've received much more--perhaps more than Chapman.
MLB and the union need to decide what system they want. Do they want free market system, where anyone can negotiate with any player, and the player has the ability to choose? Such a system existed prior to 1965 when the draft was instituted. Or do they want a worldwide draft?
Selig has said he wants an international draft. So have several others. I'm generally not a fan of systems that limit a player's options, but I recognize the need for a draft, as without it, talent would be even more unequally spread than today. The rich would keep getting richer. But if such a draft is instituted, mobility must be ensured as well. The Rule 5 draft should be expanded, and changes should be made to it to allow more players to stick with new teams. The length of contracts should also be examined.
The current system certainly segregates against players from certain countries. This is unfair. All players should be subject to the same rules when dealing with MLB teams. There are obvious complications to this (look at the Japanese posting system.) since you're dealing with several countries, but the status quo simply isn't sufficient. A system is needed that ensures mobility, allows a player to gain close to market value, and also provides equal access to talent for large and small market clubs. The current system provides none of these things.