Blue Jays, As Discussing Matt Chapman Trade – MLB Trade Rumors

Blue Jays, As Discussing Matt Chapman Trade – MLB Trade Rumors
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7:59am: Shi Davidi and Hazel Mae of Sportsnet report that the A’s and Jays are still working to determine the final pieces in the trade, but it is indeed expected to be completed (Twitter link).

7:02am: The Blue Jays and Athletics are finalizing a trade that would send third baseman Matt Chapman from Oakland to Toronto, tweets Jon Morosi of MLB.com. He adds that the Jays aren’t expected to include any projected members of their Opening Day roster in the deal. Former All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga, who previously broke the news on the Jays signing both Yimi Garcia and (last offseason) Marcus Semien, first reported on Instagram that a trade agreement is in place.

The acquisition of Chapman will give the Blue Jays not only one of the best defensive third basemen in the game but one of the top defensive players in baseball at any position. Since Chapman’s 2017 Major League debut, his 88 Defensive Runs Saved and his 47.3 Ultimate Zone rating both trail only Mookie Betts and Andrelton Simmons among all big leaguers. Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric largely agrees, ranking him tenth among all big league players, regardless of position, since 2017. Indeed, Chapman has twice been recognized as the league’s best all-around defender by being named the league’s Platinum Glove winner.

Of course, Chapman is far from a glove-only player. From 2018-19, he was a legitimate MVP candidate on the strength of his combined offensive and defensive prowess. The former No. 25 overall draft pick posted a .263/.348/.507 slash with 60 home runs while playing his home games at the cavernous Oakland Coliseum during those two seasons, finishing Top 7 in American League MVP voting on both occasions.

Chapman’s offensive production has fallen sharply over the past two seasons, due in no small part to a major hip injury in 2020 that he tried to play through before succumbing to surgery. That procedure both repaired a labrum tear and “cleaned up” the head of his right femur bone. Even as his production has dipped, Chapman has still hit for power (37 home runs, .216 ISO) and drawn plenty of walks (11.4%), but his strikeout rate has spiked from 22.8% in 2018-19 all the way to 33.1% in 2020-21. Over the past two seasons, he’s posted a combined .215/.206/.431 batting line.

The Jays are surely betting that Chapman will bounce back to an extent at the plate now that he’ll be 18 months removed from that September 2020 surgery. However, even if he doesn’t return to his MVP-caliber levels from 2018-19, the new three-true-outcomes version of Chapman was still worth 3.5 wins above replacement per both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs last season. He’s a pronounced upgrade for a Jays team hoping to make a deep postseason run on the strength of a dominant offense and a rotation that has improved by leaps and bounds in recent seasons.

Chapman’s salary has not yet been settled, as he’s arbitration-eligible and did not settle on a price point with the A’s prior to the lockout. He’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $9.5MM this coming season and will be owed one more raise for the 2023 campaign before reaching free agency in the 2023-24 offseason. While Jays fans may be looking to Matt Olson’s swift extension following a trade from Oakland to his hometown Braves, it should be pointed out that as a client of the Boras Corporation, Chapman seems less likely to follow that same trajectory. Still, he’ll be locked in as the Toronto third baseman for at least the next two seasons.

Adding Chapman firmly pushes Cavan Biggio to second base, where he’s better suited to play from a defensive standpoint. Chapman’s range will also play nicely alongside Bo Bichette, who has drawn mixed reviews for his glovework at shortstop. Statcast notes that Bichette is much stronger on balls hit to his left side than those hit to his right, so getting some extra range out of their third baseman will be particularly helpful.

It’s worth pointing out that Chapman isn’t an ideal fit for a Toronto lineup that skews almost entirely right-handed. He’d give them eight pure right-handed hitters in the starting lineup, with Biggio the lone lefty. That right-handed lean was part of the reason that a potential Freddie Freeman fit has seemed so tantalizing for the Jays. This acquisition technically doesn’t rule out a Freeman signing, but it does quash any speculation of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moving back to third base. That’s in the team’s best interest anyhow, as Guerrero was never a strong defensive option at the hot corner. A theoretical Freeman addition would push Guerrero into a primary designated hitter role earlier in his career than the Jays might’ve liked, but the sheer offensive firepower of that lineup would still make it worth considering. Alternatively, the Jays have been linked to Kyle Schwarber, who’d add a left-handed bat to the left field and designated hitter mix. Whichever path the Jays go, it seems likely they have at least one more move left in them.

For the A’s, the Chapman trade marks the latest step in the dismantling of a roster that was largely foreseeable but is nevertheless disheartening for the fanbase. Chapman follows fan favorites Olson and Chris Bassitt out the door, and it’s unlikely Oakland will stop its roster purge with those three. Lefty Sean Manaea, a free agent at season’s end, seems all but certain to be traded. Right-hander Frankie Montas, center fielder Ramon Laureano and reliever Lou Trivino all have multiple seasons of club control remaining but still could change hands. Montas, in particular, has been a target for pitching-hungry clubs.

More to come.