In 2023, no one seemed to take and run away with the third base job all season, and it seems the Chicago Cubs may have their eyes on a certain free agent to fill the void.
As the winter meetings continue to roll on, Jon Heyman posted an article talking about many of the usual things about Ohtani, Yamamoto, and many of the other well-discussed suspects. But there was a portion on the Chicago Cubs that talked about a target we have yet to officially hear linked to the Cubs. That player is former Athletic and Blue Jay, Matt Chapman. He would write that the Chicago Cubs are currently “looking” at the two-time Platinum Glove winner to be their third baseman.
Chapman, who will turn 31 shortly after Opening Day, is coming off yet another good season in 2023 with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was once again stellar with the glove as he was among the leaders in Outs Above Average and led AL 3rd baseman in Defensive Runs saved while bringing home his 4th Gold Glove award. At the plate was a different story. To start the year, it looked like he was going to earn himself a massive payday when he hit nearly .400 with 5 home runs and 21 RBIs. He certainly peaked early as he would hit just 12 more home runs, knock in 34 more runs, and barely hit over .200 the rest of the season.
Matt Chapman’s bat has always left a bit to be desired outside of his outstanding 2018 and 2019 seasons. He has always been a statcast darling as he will annually rank in the 95+ percentile in all the rates you love to see like hard hit%, barrel%, and average exit velocity. His problem isn’t that he doesn’t have a good eye or chases too much, as he’s near the league leaders in walk and chase rate.
His problem is simply that he continues to have trouble putting the bat to the ball. His whiff and K rates were both below the 20% percentile in the whole league as he whiffed 31% of the time and struck out 28% of the time. That is not a combination you want.
So, when it comes to what it might take to acquire the services of Matt Chapman, there is a pretty big gap between the high and the low projections. That isn’t particularly hard surprising as he has been a volatile performer himself over the years. Some see him getting as low as four years for 80 million. While others see him getting upwards of 150 million over six years.
It is also worth noting that he turned down an extension from the Blue Jays that was reportedly four of five years and around 100 million dollars. Taking that into account, you know he wants to at least get that much or top it with his new contract. His outstanding glove is not in question, but should a team believe they can get his bat back to past levels it would not be surprising to see someone, maybe even the Chicago Cubs, splurging and signing Chapman at that higher contract level. If not, he might end up kicking himself for not taking that Toronto extension.
Even with a bat that has been at times very disappointing, it’s not hard to understand why the Chicago Cubs would be interested in Chapman. Adding him to an infield that already has Gold Glovers in Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson would take their already stellar team defense to another level. He has also proven to be very durable, which is seemingly undervalued anymore. He has never missed more than 21 games during a full season.
Plus, although it has not been what some might hope or expect, his bat is still 10% better than average and could even improve as he works with the Chicago Cubs coaching staff. Should the price be right, a Chicago Cubs and Chapman partnership could make a lot of sense. He’s certainly one to keep and eye on as the Winter Meetings and Shohei sweepstakes roll on.
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