Manny Machado extension just put Blue Jays in tough spot with Matt Chapman

Feb 22, 2023; Dunedin, FL, USA;  Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman (26) participates in
Feb 22, 2023; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman (26) participates in / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The shockwaves across the league when the San Diego Padres announced they signed All-Star third baseman Manny Machado to a massive contract extension on Sunday were felt even in Dunedin, Spring Training home of the Blue Jays.

Machado, who was eligible to opt out of the 10-year, $300M deal he signed with the Padres in 2019 after this season, instead agreed to a new 11-year deal worth $350M that will keep him in San Diego through to the end of the 2033 season. It’s the third-largest contract extension in MLB history, behind only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout.

The deal has instant ramifications in the National League, where the Padres will have Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and Fernando Tatis Jr. locked up for the remainder of the decade, plus Juan Soto for another two years. The club’s spending spree will make them World Series contenders for years to come.

But it also has an impact on the Blue Jays, who have their own All-Star third baseman about to become a free agent a year from now. Matt Chapman is in the final year of his contract which will pay him $12.5M in 2023, 10th among third baseman. He’s never hit the free agent market before in his career. He's also represented by the notoriously ruthless Scott Boras, who will ensure Chapman gets every penny that he’s worth.

Chapman is due for a big pay raise after this season, when he’ll still be just 30-years-old, younger than Machado is now. He’s among the most elite fielders at his position in the league, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and a virtual vacuum for groundballs hit in his direction. Chapman led all third basemen in fielding percentage each of the last two seasons. In 2022, he committed just five errors in 432 chances and had the most assists and double plays turned among all players at the position, although he didn’t win another Gold Glove; that honor instead went to Ramon Urías of the Orioles.

Chapman won’t ever be the offensive threat that Machado is; over the last two seasons, his OPS is 130 points lower than his counterpart in San Diego. But he is one of only six third basemen with at least 100 home runs over the last four seasons and had two seasons with an OPS above .840 with the Oakland Athletics.

He’s due for a massive pay jump after this year, and he knows just how important this upcoming season is. “I’m human. I know that it’s my free-agent year. It’s a big and important year, but I’ve built a pretty good resume and know if I play every game to win, take care of business, and help this team win, what happens in the offseason after this will take care of itself,” he said last week as the Blue Jays began reporting to Dunedin for the start of Spring Training.

“I know the Blue Jays enjoy having me here and want to continue having me here. I know I want to continue to be here and be a part of this team.”

But will he be a Blue Jay beyond 2023? The club will have a decision to make. Machado’s contract extension took the top potential 2024 free agent third baseman off the market and set the price for what a franchise third baseman is worth. Chapman will now headline next year’s class, where he’ll be the most accomplished and youngest third baseman on the market.

If the Blue Jays open their wallet for Chapman, it could potentially affect their ability to hold onto their other young stars, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette when they become free agents in three years. Or they could let Chapman leave for a bigger deal somewhere else and hope a prospect such as Addison Barger is ready to fill the gaping hole on the left side of the infield.

The Blue Jays were already facing a difficult situation with Chapman’s contract status. Machado’s deal just made it even more so. If Chapman is smiling all the way to the bank next year, he has Machado to thank.

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