Spring training is getting closer and closer, yet the market is still stacked with multiple players looking for long-term homes. In late January, the reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell, former MVP Cody Bellinger, and World Series champion Jordan Montgomery are all still waiting to find a team to commit to, even as the start of the 2024 season is right around the corner. In all the disarray, there still remains a player who's market has been relatively quiet. A player that the Blue Jays are familiar with. A player that despite all the reservations about re-signing, could end up being the clearest fit for the team. If the price is right, Matt Chapman could be back, and there's plenty to break down on the subject.
Breakdown on Chapman
On the surface, Chapman did what was expected of him in 2023. In 140 games, he hit .240/.330/.424, which was good for a 110 wRC+ and a 3.5 fWAR to boot. He hit 17 home runs, 39 doubles, and was once again very plus defender at third base, accruing 12 DRS at the position. What gets more jarring is seeing how Chapman started his 2023 campaign. For the entire month of April, Chapman hit .372/.459/.691 and had a wRC+ of 214. He led all of baseball with 2.0 fWAR in just a single month, putting himself at the forefront of MVP talks, and setting himself up for a great season to come. April then ended, and what came next was not as marvelous for the 30 year old.
From May 1st to the end of the season, Chapman hit .205/.298/.361 with a paltry 84 wRC+. In 5 months of consistent playing time, he hit 10 home runs, and drove in 33 runs, when he was counted on to be one of the teams primary offensive contributors. The end of the season left a poor taste in Jays fans' mouths about Chapman and what it would look like to keep him on the team long term.
Were these signs of what is to come, or more of a blip in the radar? Should the Jays bite the bullet, and commit to Chapman, who is currently the best 3B available on the market, or do they give themselves the freedom to plug the 3rd base hole with less risk involved? It really all comes down to terms and dollar figures.
Fit for the Blue Jays
As the offseason gets closer to wrapping up, the odds of a reunion with the Blue Jays feels more likely than it would have at the end of the season. This is mainly due to the fact that his market doesn't seem as lucrative as he and his agent Scott Boras were expecting. Spotrac has Chapman's market value at 6 six-years, $103M which is an AAV around $17.2M. It's starting to seem more possible the Chapman may not eclipse the $100M mark, which could be the biggest thing putting the Blue Jays right back in the hunt for the third baseman.
What makes Chapman especially plausible to return to the Blue Jays is other suitors deciding to pivot elsewhere, meaning Chapman is no longer part of their plans. The Chicago Cubs have had rumored interest, but after trading for Michael Busch, it's likely they want him to get majority of the 3B reps next year. The San Francisco Giants have also been attached to Chapman, but have already made big splashes in free agency, inking both CF Jung Hoo Lee and SP Jordan Hicks to long term deals. If Chapman holds his market too high, the Giants may just move on elsewhere with their remaining budget.
Lastly, the Blue Jays have a rapport with him, and he's well liked as a teammate and leader. He's also stated his own openness to returning to the team. Defensively speaking, it's unlikely to find someone more polished and consistent as he's been. The risk lies in the offensive version of Chapman that is being acquired. If the Jays manage to come to terms at 4 years max, it's more than likely an investment worth making. Chapman and the Jays are both clearly willing to sweat this out as long as it takes. Someone will have to crack, and only time will tell if the Blue Jays are the ones willing to do it.