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01/11/10 2:00 PM EST

Nats were in Chapman race until end

Kasten remains excited, despite missing out on Cuban

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals tried hard to acquire left-hander Aroldis Chapman until Saturday night, when Chapman decided to sign a six-year, $30 million deal with the Reds.

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Nationals president Stan Kasten acknowledged that he was surprised the Reds were able to acquire Chapman's services, but understood why they made the move.

"We were very, very involved in it until the end," Kasten said. "Our scouts had looked at him. We liked him a lot. We thought he would have been a good fit. We were aggressive and we were right there in the end -- until Saturday night.

"The Reds would not have been one of the teams I predicted. Frankly, I think they did a great job. They understood what they were doing. I think they have a similar plan to us. They saw the benefit in acquiring someone with a real upside. I think they had a similar scouting report as we did. We valued him quite a lot. We think he has a great future. I think they put a higher value on him in terms of current gamble than we did, but I'm not surprised someone did it. I was surprised it was them."

Asked if money was the reason Chapman didn't sign with the Nationals, Kasten said, "Well, at the end, it came down to money, but we went pretty hard. We made a very, very attractive offer. It wasn't quite like what the final offer was apparently, but we were very aggressive ... for a kid who has not yet thrown a pitch [in the United States]."

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo went to Houston on Dec. 15 to watch Chapman work out. Chapman had a bullpen session in the morning and impressed scouts with his velocity.

Chapman, 21, became a free agent after he defected from the Cuban National Team on July 3.

In recent days, Chapman was often compared to Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg because of their blazing fastballs, and the team saw the appeal it would have if both played in Washington.

"I understand the comparison and there's quite a bit of appeal in us having both of them here," Kasten said.

Although they were unable to sign Chapman, Kasten believes the future is bright for the Nationals. He expects Strasburg, Drew Storen and Jordan Zimmerman to make an impact on the team. In fact, Kasten predicts the team will be better in 2010.

"We are already excited about the next wave that is coming within three to six months," Kasten said. "All the things we have done this offseason have been pieces to improve our team in 2010. Except for [Ivan Rodriguez], who is 38, all the pieces -- the ones who are successful -- can be here for the long haul. [Jason] Marquis is only 31, [Brian] Bruney is 27 and [Matt] Capps is 26. There are pieces that not only improve us for 2010, but they can be here for the long term.

"We are going to be adding a Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, who is coming back, and Drew Storen. And after all of that, we still have the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. So the next wave: the coming attraction is coming to stadium near you. It's very exciting part of our story."

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