Last offseason, the Blue Jays made a few moves to improve the squad for the 2022 season. While the key offseason signing was Kevin Gausman, the Jays made a big splash just before Spring Training, moving four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for third baseman Matt Chapman.
In a trade eerily similar to the Josh Donaldson trade back in late 2014, the Blue Jays sent former first-round pick Gunnar Hoglund along with INF Kevin Smith, LHP Zach Logue, and LHP Kirby Snead to the Athletics. Logue is no longer with Oakland after being DFA’d just before Christmas, while Logue and Snead split last season between Triple-A and MLB.
In exchange, the Blue Jays received defensive stalwart Matt Chapman, who had racked up a 78 DRS at third base heading into the 2022 season with three Gold Glove Awards, two Platinum Glove Awards, and one All-Star appearance since his rookie debut back in 2017. Within a week of the trade, the Jays signed Chapman to a two-year deal worth $25 million, buying out his remaining arbitration years. The California product is slated to hit free agency after the 2023 campaign.
Matt Chapman’s First Season with the Blue Jays
In his first year with the Blue Jays, Chapman authored a .229/.324/.433 slash line with 27 home runs, 76 RBI, and a .757 OPS. He posted a 3.5 bWAR and a 117 wRC+. At the plate, Chapman sat in the 93rd percentile in average exit velocity (92.2 mph) and in the 98th percentile in chase rate, while pulling the ball in 44.8% of his at-bats.
Defensively, he was named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award, but lost out to Orioles third baseman Ramón Urías, finishing the year sitting in the 72nd percentile in Outs Above Average, a 2 DRS, and a .988 fielding percentage with just five errors.
In 2023, Chapman will be heading into his contract year after looking for a sizeable pay upgrade if he wishes to reach free agency after this season. Looking at the current projections, Steamer has the Cal State Fullerton product posting a slightly less wRC+ at 111 and matching his home run total at 27 with four extra RBI at 80. Baseball Reference is predicting slightly less productivity, with Chapman earning .727 OPS with 23 home runs and 68 RBI.
It is no secret that his calling card is his defensive ability, as Chapman has been one of the top defenders at third base since entering the MLB. Since 2017, he ranks second in terms of DRS (80), OAA (49), and UZR (49.8) and third in terms of fielding percentage (.974) with 58 errors committed during that timeframe.
Chapman and the Looming Free Agency
Any team looking to upgrade defensively next offseason will definitely want to kick their tires on Chapman, but what he does with the bat this season will decide how big of a deal he’s going to get.
With the recent departure of Teoscar Hernández this offseason, the righty-batter could see some more action towards the top of the lineup in the 4-6 area, although he hasn’t seen the best results in that part of the batting order.
Projections aside, many Blue Jays fans are hoping Chapman can turn in a solid campaign in 2023 to not only help himself in looming free agency but to also aid the Jays in their quest for a World Series Championship. The club will likely present him with a qualifying offer after this season is over as well, so they will receive draft pick compensation should he sign elsewhere.
If he can find a way to produce at the same clip as his 2019 All-Star campaign (127 OPS+ and 7.8 bWAR), Chapman could replace the production lost via the Hernández trade while the Blue Jays get stronger defensively with the Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho additions.