Yesterday was a pretty stellar day if you were a Blue Jays fan. While all signs are pointing to Freddie Freeman signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kyle Schwarber heading to Philadelphia, the Blue Jays front office was able to pull off a pretty solid trade that is really going to benefit them over the next two seasons (at minimum).
Reminiscent of the blockbuster deal back in November of 2014, the Jays acquired third baseman Matt Chapman from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for four prospects: INF Kevin Smith, RHP Gunnar Hoglund, LHP Zach Logue, and LHP Kirby Snead. Smith and Snead were the only two players from the Jays side in this deal who have some experience at the Major League level while Logue should be making his debut sometime this year. Hoglund was the Blue Jays’ first-round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft and is still a couple of years away development-wise after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of last year.
Overall, this deal is a pretty solid acquisition for the Blue Jays. For starters, acquiring Chapman, who is arguably one of the top defensive-minded third baseman with some solid power in his bat, creates a well-rounded lineup that will take the pressure off Santiago Espinal and Cavan Biggio trying to man the hot corner in a year where it seems like World Series or bust. He should slot in as a middle-of-the-order bat and provide some relief for pitchers on the mound when it comes to making the routine plays and even the highlight reel dives and grabs that can be a difference-maker over the course of a full season.
The Toronto Blue Jays made headlines with the Matt Chapman deal but the trade itself is proving to have quite a few benefits off the field as well.
Another added benefit with this deal is that the Blue Jays did not give up any of their top three prospects in Gabriel Moreno, Orelvis Martinez, and Jordan Groshans, although they did have to part with Hoglund, who was ranked at #4 and was the clubs top pitching prospect at the time. With the recent Yusei Kikuchi and Kevin Gausman contracts, the Jays could afford to trade some pitching depth and still have Nate Pearson, Thomas Hatch, Bowden Francis, and Anthony Kay as additional starters should the need arise this year.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the Blue Jays pulled off this trade and were able to keep some room on the 40-man roster, which could come in handy over the next few weeks as the offseason starts to wind down. The only player heading to Oakland who was not on the roster was Hoglund, so after the subtractions with this trade and the additions of Kikuchi, Chapman, and Andrew Vasquez, the Blue Jays now have 38 spots occupied on the 40-man, meaning two are available for either an acquisition or to add any players who are currently in camp on a minor-league deal. The Jays had 38 spots occupied before Vasquez and Kikuchi signed their respective deals, so those additions are basically a wash when it comes to the 40-man roster space after the Chapman trade.
I would go as far to say that one spot could be saved for reliever David Phelps, who is back with the Blue Jays on a MiLB deal this year. Barring an absolute implosion this spring, Phelps should have an inside track on a roster spot unless the front office adds two more Major League players to the team before Opening Day. Two more roster spots could open up if Ryan Borucki and Reese McGuire do not make the roster, as both players are out of minor league options and must be DFA’d if they don’t make the active roster for the April 8th home opener against the Texas Rangers.
Not only do the Blue Jays get better on paper with the addition of Matt Chapman, but they also now have some wiggle room on the 40-man roster and still have their top three prospects in the system. A pretty successful offseason so far for Ross Atkins and co. and it seems like there may be some more moves coming in the future.