The case for a QO to Matt Chapman
With Ryu and Belt ineligible, the only likely candidate for a qualifying offer among the pending Blue Jays free agents is 30-year old 3B Matt Chapman, who appears open to returning to Toronto. MLB ranks him as the third best impending free agent this offseason behind Shohei Ohtani and Cody Bellinger.
He’s coming off a two-year, $25M (AAV $12.5M) contract, and is due a big raise going in to his age 31 season. ESPN projects he’ll get anywhere from $80~150M in free agency, with the seven-year, $175M contract Marcus Semien signed with Texas ahead of the 2022 season as a ‘high-water mark’.
MLB Network insider Mark Feinsand notes that “Chapman’s home run total is down this year (17 in 140 games), but his .330 on-base percentage is his highest since '19, and he rank[ed] in the AL's top five with 39 doubles. Before missing 15 games with a right middle finger sprain late this season, Chapman was on pace to finish with an fWAR of more than 4.0 in 2023, a mark he has reached in each of his previous four full seasons since '18. The third-base free-agent market is thin this winter, putting Chapman in position to cash in with a nice deal.” The only other likely 3B free agent that compares with Chapman is Jeimer Candelario, who turns 30 in November.
Chapman finished 2023 with a 3.5 fWAR, 110 wRC+, OPS+ of 108, and his defensive metrics were again Platinum Glove-level outstanding: a total Defensive Runs Saved above average of +12, and Outs Above Average of +5, which ranked ninth overall in MLB for third baseman and fourth in the American League behind Maikel Garcia, Eugenio Suárez and José Ramírez.
While it sounds like the Blue Jays front office may be ready to let Chapman go, by tendering him a QO, they would at least receive a compensatory draft pick if they do lose him as a free agent. The New York Yankees and NY Mets are both rumoured to be interested in Chapman, with the Yankees in need of someone to man the hot corner after releasing Josh Donaldson and trading away Gio Urshela.
Because the Blue Jays do not receive revenue sharing and exceeded the luxury-tax salary threshold in the 2023 season, a compensatory pick if Chapman were to reject their QO would come after the fourth round in next summer’s amateur draft. That would likely be a pick somewhere in the mid-130s overall.