Blue Jays: Could a past trade partner provide a solid third base option?

The Toronto Blue Jays used seven different players at third base this season with Santiago Espinal leading the charge at 81 appearances followed by Cavan Biggio with 52. To begin the year, Biggio was the club’s starter at the hot corner with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. moving to first base on a full-time basis but the infielder struggled at the position, posting a .935 fielding percentage with nine errors.

With the lefty batter also missing some time on the injured list this year, Espinal was given a chance to showcase his talents, an opportunity he took full advantage of evident by his .311/.376/.405 slash line and .980 fielding percentage at third base. Prospect Kevin Smith also got his first taste of big-league action, committing three errors with a  .950 fielding percentage through 14 games but struggled at the plate, posting a .382 OPS through 32 at-bats with just three hits.

The club could decide to give Espinal an extended look next year as the primary third baseman but if the organization is looking for some veteran talent, there are options available if they so choose.

Kris Bryant, Eduardo Escobar, and potentially Kyle Seager (he has a club option that the Mariners are likely to decline) are eligible for free agency this offseason while Jose Ramirez is another option via trade, an idea the Blue Jays have already discussed with Cleveland back at the deadline but nothing came to fruition.

Trading for Ramirez would require a significant amount of prospect capital but there could be another player available if an old trade partner is willing to dance again.

The third baseman for the Oakland Athletics over the past five seasons, Matt Chapman has established himself as one of the top defensive infielders in the game with his 2018 and 2019 Platinum Glove Awards. For his career, Chapman sports a .243/.330/.478 slash line with 111 home runs, 296 RBI, and a .808 OPS, mashing 20+ home runs in three out of his five seasons in the majors, an impressive stat considering he only played in 84 games his rookie season and the 2020 season was shortened to just 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Toronto Blue Jays could look to improve third base this offseason via trade or free agency, with Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman a potential trade option.

As I mentioned earlier, the Athletics and Blue Jays are no stranger to pulling off big trades, with the two clubs agreeing to send third baseman Josh Donaldson North of the border in exchange for Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and Franklin Barreto back in the 2014/2015 offseason.

The deal was easily won by the Jays, as Donaldson would turn into a two-time all-star, two time Silver Slugger winner, and would win the 2015 AL MVP award while Lawrie would be traded a year later and the rest of the prospects never panned out for the A’s, with Graveman only now starting to find his groove at the Major League level in the bullpen. The “Bringer of Rain” will also live in the Blue Jays record books for his play at home to help the Blue Jays advance past the Texas Rangers in the 2016 ALDS and was a dominant force in the lineup until he was traded at the 2018 deadline.

Could the two sides strike another deal this offseason?

Right now, Chapman is entering his second year of arbitration and is projected to earn $9.5 million, a big chunk of change for the small market Athletics organization who will also have to find a way to support Matt Olsen, Sean Manaea, and Chris Bassitt’s contracts this year as all three are arbitration-eligible and looking for big pay raises.

That’s not to say the Athletics are willing to give Chapman up for peanuts, as he does possess trade value that will cost any potential suitor a top prospect or two, just not at the same level as Donaldson circa 2014 or whatever Ramirez would be commanding. The Blue Jays do have some prospect capital they could part with if they do see Chapman as a fit on the roster but it would still have to come at the right price given there are other options out there this offseason.

The one caveat to going after Chapman versus Ramirez or Bryant via free agency is that his hitting ability is not as fine-tuned compared to both players, in that he does find a way to get on base (shown by his .808 OPS) but does have a tendency to strike out at the plate, evident his career 26.9% strikeout rate. While it isn’t Joey Gallo bad, it is something to consider in a division that boasts some talented pitchers like Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole, and whatever young fireballer the Tampa Bay Rays throw out there. He is also coming off a down season at the plate where he could only muster a .210 batting average and a .716 OPS.

Chapman does have the added bonus of some pop off the bat and his defensive ability would be a huge upgrade over the internal options the club already has, it just revolves around whether the bat can find the same rhythm as his sophomore campaign in 2018 where he posted a .278/.356/.508 line.

There is no doubt that adding Chapman to the Blue Jays would improve the team, it is just whether or not the two sides can come to an agreement and whether the A’s would be willing to trade their third baseman, especially to the club that won the Donaldson trade and had executive Billy Beane regretting the move a few years later, “In hindsight, that was certainly questionable.”

The front office will also have to weigh the pros and cons of whether a trade for Chapman is beneficial compared to signing Seager (if he becomes a free agent), as the two sides do seem like a good fit given his ability to hit from the left side and veteran experience at third base.

Would you like to see the Blue Jays acquire Chapman if the right deal arises? Should the club go after Ramirez or a free agent instead of Chapman? Should the club risk starting Espinal or Biggio on a full-time basis?