VIERA, Fla. -- Aroldis Chapman is the guy everyone wants to see in Arizona. Stephen Strasburg is the guy everyone wants to see in Florida.
Imagine if they were both in the same spring training camp.
"I spent a lot of time imagining that," Nationals president Stan Kasten said with a smile.
The Nationals were one of a few teams that went deep into the bidding for Chapman, along with the A's, the Marlins and the Reds, who eventually got the deal done for $30.25 million over six years. The Nationals' final bid was for about $25 million.
"I give [Reds general manager] Walt Jocketty a lot of credit," Nats GM Mike Rizzo said.
Strasburg made his second start of the spring today, overcoming strong winds to throw three scoreless innings against the Cardinals. In two starts, the 21-year-old right-hander has pitched five scoreless innings, impressing just about everyone who has seen him.
The Nationals will almost certainly have him start his pro career in the minor leagues, but they see him joining their rotation soon. And they still dream of what it would have been like to have had Chapman in that rotation, too.
"It would have been an excellent 1-2 punch," Rizzo said.
One question I had about Chapman: If he's as good as advertised, what happened to the big-spending teams? Nothing against the Reds, A's, Marlins and Nationals, but couldn't the Yankees or Red Sox have blown them out of the water?
One possible answer is that the big-money teams weren't as impressed. The other, though, is that Chapman told teams he was very focused on getting to the big leagues quickly, and was most interested in going to a team that would give him that chance.
I missed Chapman's first start for the Reds, because I had to be at the Brewers camp that day. I missed Jason Heyward, because he didn't play either of the times I saw the Braves.
I wasn't about to miss a chance to see Strasburg. He doesn't disappoint, even if his velocity today wasn't as good as it can be (94-96 mph). As one of the scouts watching said, he shows two legitimate strikeout pitches (fastball and breaking ball), and he's willing to throw the breaking ball at any time.
Livan Hernandez, who followed Strasburg, has a chance to open the season in the Nationals rotation. But what was more interesting to me is what Hernandez, who left Cuba in 1995, had to say about Chapman, who left last year.
While first saying that the decision on whether to have Chapman start in the big leagues is up to the Reds front office, Hernandez said that he thinks any Cuban defector can benefit from time in the minor leagues.
"I think the language will be the most difficult thing for him," Hernandez said.
Hernandez spent all of the 1996 season and part of the 1997 season in the minors.
"I think it helped me a lot," he said. "I think [Chapman] is going to be all right. But the game here is different from Cuba."
And what about Reds fans, who are so anxious to see the guy the Reds gave all that money to?
"Their fans can wait a little bit," Hernandez said.