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01/08/10 6:30 PM EST

Blue Jays make offer to Chapman

$23 million deal highest reported thus far; Angels close

If a recent report by the Miami-based Spanish newspaper El Nuevo Herald is accurate, the Blue Jays and Angels are distancing themselves in the sweepstakes to acquire Aroldis Chapman.

The publication reported Friday that the Blue Jays have offered the prized Cuban defector a $23 million contract, while the Angels are believed to be somewhere close to that figure. If that's the case, then the clubs have trumped the two recent offers for Chapman.

The Red Sox were believed to have tendered Chapman $15.5 million in November. Meanwhile, El Nuevo Herald, affiliated with The Miami Herald, added that the Marlins raised their previous offer from $13 million to $16 million over five years, but they're pretty much out of the race now, too.

The Blue Jays declined comment, sticking to general manager Alex Anthopoulos' policy of not responding publicly to reports. Chapman's agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, could not be reached for comment by MLB.com.

Later, SI.com followed up by reporting that the Blue Jays are showing "keen interest" in Chapman and put the offer at "about $20 million." SI.com believes the Marlins' bid was anywhere between $13 million and $20 million and added that the Athletics have offered about the same amount of money as the Red Sox. One unnamed source told SI.com the Angels are "unlikely" to be a major player.

A decision could be reached by early next week.

ESPN.com reported last week that the Blue Jays held a private workout for Chapman in Dunedin, Fla., last Thursday, but this is the first reported offer by the club. Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which added that Chapman could sign within the next three or four days, cited an unnamed industry source in writing that the 21-year-old left-hander will eventually pick either the Angels or Blue Jays for about $21 million.

The Yankees, Mets and Astros have reportedly bowed out of the race to acquire Chapman, and The Baltimore Sun speculated recently that the Orioles appear out of the picture, too. In regards to the Red Sox, ESPNBoston.com indicated Thursday that they are still "very much in the picture."

The Angels could appeal to Chapman because of his close relationship with first baseman Kendry Morales, who is also represented by the Hendricks brothers. The two now train together daily in South Florida, according to El Nuevo Herald. But in Toronto, Chapman has the opportunity to eventually fly to Cuba directly without having to deal with the U.S. embargo. Chapman's entire family, including his girlfriend and recently born daughter he has yet to see, are still in Cuba.

Chapman, who defected from Cuba in July and was granted free-agent status by Major League Baseball while establishing residency in the tiny European nation of Andorra, is 6-foot-4 and throws a fastball in the triple digits.

His star was born in the 2007 World Cup, when he struck out 20 batters in 15 innings through two dominating outings. But during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Chapman posted a subpar 5.68 ERA in two starts.

While Chapman is clearly talented, scouts have expressed concern about his command for a secondary pitch and believe he'll need some seasoning in the Minor Leagues before being a big league pitcher. Some even see him as a reliever.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.