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Matt Chapman has always been a little underappreciated. He got a late start to his career in Oakland — he didn’t make his MLB debut until he was 24 — and was initially far more well-known for his glove than he was for his bat.
But he was instantly a centerpiece of some excellent A’s clubs, teaming up with fellow young stars Matt Olson and Marcus Semien to make the playoffs two straight seasons in 2018 and 2019. Chapman may have been the quiet leader of those groups, peaking with a fantastic 2019 season in which he hit 36 homers and won the second of his four Gold Glove Awards at third base.
He hasn’t quite reached those numbers since, but he’s still a consistent middle-of-the-order presence and a linchpin of any infield. His teams have made the playoffs in more than half of his seasons, and it’s not difficult to see why. And there’s reason to believe his bat has more potential in it than his (still-above-average) 2023 numbers might make it look: As my colleague Mark Feinsand has pointed out, he was in the 100th percentile for hard-hit rate and 98th percentile for average exit velocity last year. The guy can rake.
His market has been oddly quiet this offseason, likely in part because Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (and Juan Soto) have eaten up most of the headlines. (He’s also a Scott Boras client, and those guys often are willing to wait out the market a bit.) But it’s 2024 now, with pitchers and catchers reporting in, like, a month-and-a-half: Someone’s going to want to get a Matt Chapman on their roster. Whoever gets him instantly is better, substantially better, than they were the day before.
But who are the frontrunners to get him? Here’s a look at his potential suitors, ranked by likelihood of a signing.
1) Blue Jays
This might have been a different conversation if the Blue Jays would have ended up with Ohtani, but Toronto fans may remember that did not in fact happen. If the Blue Jays want to maximize everything they can get out of this current competitive window — and they’re in a division with the Yankees (who added Soto), the 100-plus-game-winning Orioles and the ever-relentless Rays, so they had best go big while they have the chance — keeping Chapman around is the path of least resistance. Ideally, they’d swing huge and go after Cody Bellinger (another great fit, even with Kevin Kiermaier re-signed) and keep Chapman, but at the very least, Chapman keeps them level from last year. The grass isn’t always greener, you know.
This is another situation that may be riding on where Bellinger ends up. The Cubs looked primed to spend this offseason, particularly after hiring Craig Counsell as manager, but so far they’re down two big free agents in Bellinger and Marcus Stroman and haven’t done anything to fill those spots. In that light, Chapman would be a great fit here. Counting on Nick Madrigal to man third base all year seems a little, oh, unambitious, and Chapman would fit snugly in the middle of that lineup, particularly for a team that doesn’t have nearly as much power as you might expect. This is also a team that in many ways was built around defense last year, and Chapman and Dansby Swanson would lock down the left side of the infield even further. Like the Blue Jays, you wonder if the Cubs should just sign both Bellinger and Chapman already.
This would have felt like an obvious fit a year ago, with the Giants (as always) trying to find a lineup anchor and a third baseman. But it looks like they need the former more than the latter right now. That’s because of the emergence of J.D. Davis, who struggled defensively for the Mets but turned around that part of his game in 2023, becoming a key piece in San Francisco. (He played more games and had more plate appearances than anyone on the team.) He slumped a bit in the second half offensively, making his overall numbers look a little pedestrian, but the Giants seem committed to him so far. Still, Chapman’s a better option, and the Giants need to get, well, better.
The Yankees have a lot on the line this year — players, executives, managers, even owners — and there’s every reason to believe they feel particular urgency to win right now before the seats get too hot for all of them. So it should be said that this team has not, in fact, signed any free agents yet this offseason. That’s not to say they haven’t spent money, as Soto is expensive, even if he’s worth it. But if they’re really all in, Chapman is an ideal upgrade at third base over DJ LeMahieu, and you get a sense all those Statcast metrics that show how hard he hits the ball would translate well at Yankee Stadium. Chapman also is reliable, playing at least 140 games during every full season of his career. As the Yankees know better than anyone, injuries can quickly tank a season. Having the certainty of Chapman in the lineup every day could make a world of difference.
The Tigers have shown a desire to get better quickly this offseason, bringing in Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda for their rotation and Mark Canha for their lineup. But adding someone like Chapman would instantly upgrade their offense and their defense, and it would allow Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter to develop without having the whole offense rely on them. These sort of free-agent contracts to veterans haven’t worked out all that well for the Tigers in recent years — Javier Báez is still signed through 2027 — but Chapman has proven to be a lot more reliable than Báez ever was.
This is probably wishcasting more than anything else, considering how quiet the Mariners have been outside of Mitch Garver, but Chapman would be a terrific partner to Julio Rodríguez for the next half-decade. Seattle traded for Luis Urías, who could play third base, but suffice it to say, Urías is no Chapman. Still, it’s far from clear if the Mariners will pursue this sort of costly addition.
This isn’t a crazy idea, particularly for a team like the Phillies that loves vets like Chapman, but then again, Alec Bohm improves a little bit every year and, impressively, seems to have won over that fanbase.
Several reports say the Mets aren’t in on Chapman, and it does make sense to give Brett Baty a full year at third and see what happens. On the other hand, the Mets are still a team with plenty of money and clear needs that Chapman would fill.
This one doesn’t make that much sense for the Dodgers — they do have Max Muncy at third — but Muncy is a below-average defensive player there. Chapman would be a huge upgrade in that respect. Then again, Muncy has to play somewhere and, uh, first base, second base and designated hitter, his other positions, are all taken up by former MVPs. But maybe the Dodgers are simply spending money so wildly that they’ll form a Muncy-Chapman platoon at third, just to upset everyone.