He still was listed on the team lineup, when Cuba stepped on the field to play against the Netherlands at the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam on Thursday evening. But he wasn’t really there. It is another big blow for the record Baseball World Cup champion, as hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman apparently defected on Wednesday and will travel to Miami today.
This morning the website CubaenCentro.com reported that Chapman has left the team hotel on Wednesday to sign with a Major League franchise in the United States. Dutch players saw him yesterday and confirmed that he took a seat in a waiting car and drove away. Obviously the Cuban team denied at the WPT that he is gone and still had him on the roster with number 52. However he wasn’t on the field, when the teams were introduced.
ESPN’s Jorge Arangure later this afternoon also confirmed the report and offered a first estimate how much the promising 21-year-old can command on the free agent market. He compared him to the case of Jose Contreras, who received $30 million from the New York Yankees in 2003 following his defection.
Chapman last pitched in March for Cuba in the World Baseball Classic (ERA 5.68). He touches 100 MPH with his fastball and has a slider in the upper 80s according to Keith Law of ESPN. He was the most-talented pitcher on the Cuban team, but still has lot work to do to be successful at the Major League level. He had an ERA of 4.03 in 118 1/3 in the Cuban league last season.
At the end of last year starting pitcher Yadel Marti and outfielder Yasser Gomez were the latest Cuban players to defect. They have yet to sign with a Major League organization.