For the first time in his career, third baseman Matt Chapman is a free agent. Originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2014, the defensive-minded infielder has spent the past two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays after they acquired him prior to the 2022 campaign.
In his walk year, Chapman was at the top of his class out of the gate, earning AL Player of the Month honors for April as he posted a .384/.465/.687 slash line with 15 doubles, five home runs, and a 1.152 OPS.
That streak didn’t last, as he struggled to find as much offense the rest of the season, posting a .205 average with a .276 BABip and finishing with a .755 OPS, slightly below the .757 mark he posted the season prior with Toronto. Defensively, Chapman was stellar once again at the hot corner, amassing 12 DRS and 4 Outs Above Average while earning his fourth Gold Glove Award. The California native produced a .968 fielding percentage while committing 12 errors on the season.
Now a free agent, the Scott Boras client will first have to decide whether to accept or reject his $20.325 million qualifying offer from the Jays, with many predicting Chapman will decline to test the relatively weak position player free agent market (outside of Shohei Ohtani). While he did, ultimately, see a decline at the plate in 2023 (OPS+ of 108, compared to 116 the year before), any team looking to upgrade at third base will be checking in on Chapman.
Toronto Blue Jays
A return to Toronto is certainly not out of the question, a sentiment that was echoed by Chapman toward the end of the season. While he likely won’t return to the Jays on the one-year qualifying offer, there is room for a multi-year deal, an idea that general manager Ross Atkins is interested in exploring further, per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith.
The Blue Jays do have a few internal options they could slot in at third base should Chapman depart (Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, Davis Schneider, and Santiago Espinal), but considering the club’s postseason window is at its peak, having a veteran glove like Chapman every day seems like a safer, albeit more expensive, gamble. The Jays have a few other contracts coming off the books in Hyun Jin Ryu, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brandon Belt, so bringing back Chapman won’t limit their spending this offseason either, as long as the budget remains similar to the 2023 season.
There is no guarantee that Chapman will return to the Jays, and if the two sides do decide to part ways, the Jays will receive draft pick compensation in the fourth round (for Chapman rejecting the qualifying offer).
New York Mets
With former top prospect Brett Baty struggling to find consistency at the big league level early in his career and an owner in Steve Cohen who is not afraid to spend, Matt Chapman to the Mets is one to keep an eye on.
The Mets underperformed last season, and now the team has a new president of baseball operations, David Stearns. Signing Chapman won’t break the bank for the Mets but would definitely improve the infield defense in the immediate future. Slotting in beside Francisco Lindor on the left side of second base, the two would make for an elite defensive combo. A move like this would also show that the team is interested in winning now, which could go a long way, considering long-time first baseman Pete Alonso is a free agent next winter.
Slotting Chapman into a lineup already boasting Lindor, Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Francisco Álvarez could help the Mets give the Atlanta Braves a run for their money, especially if Chapman can find some increased consistency throughout the year while carrying over his 98th-percentile Barrel% and 100th-percentile Hard-Hit%. Combine that sneaky power bat with top-notch defense, and the fit makes sense in New York.
San Francisco Giants
There is nothing wrong with wanting to return to your home state, and for Chapman, the San Francisco Giants make sense. While he grew up seven hours south in Lake Forest, California, Chapman also attended Cal State Fullerton. A return to the West Coast is not out of the question, considering he played five seasons in Oakland as well.
The connection back to California is a bit of a stretch, but the Giants are in need of an upgrade in a few areas, and one of those is third base. With no top prospects knocking on the door at the position, signing Chapman has plenty of upside for the Giants – especially after such a disappointing 2022-23 offseason in which the team almost signed Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa.
Chapman’s glove alone would be sufficient reason for the signing, but his 17 home runs would have tied him for third on the Giants with LaMonte Wade Jr. His .755 OPS would have placed him just behind Joc Pederson in fifth, and Pederson is also a free agent now.
In a strong NL West division, the Giants will need to upgrade their roster if they want to hold their own, and signing Chapman is a strong step toward improving the team on the field. For Chapman, there is a high chance the Giants could be a top bidder given their recent track record in free agency; that should make them a fit for any player who is represented by super-agent Scott Boras.
Arizona surprised many by making the World Series this past season, proving that all you need is a chance in the postseason to make things happen. While their championship aspirations came up just short, their roster is poised to contend over the next several years and will be one to watch in the NL West.
Chapman, who lives in Scottsdale, could be an easy fit in the desert, considering Evan Longoria is free agent bound. He is also a considerable upgrade over Emmanuel Rivera, who the Diamondbacks could use in a few different areas as needed instead.
Third base is an area in need of some external patching, and Chapman leads the charge in terms of available options. He would complement a roster that boasts some experienced veterans, like Ketel Marte and Christian Walker, while helping the next wave of players in Corbin Carroll and former Jays teammate Gabriel Moreno.