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Looking at internal and external options for third base if the Blue Jays don’t re-sign Matt Chapman

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Ryan Snodgrass
2 months ago
With Matt Chapman on the open market as a free agent, the Toronto Blue Jays are considering a wide array of options to play third base for the team next season and beyond.
The importance of a quality defender at third is paramount for the Blue Jays given the team’s pitching staff. Many Blue Jays pitchers rely on getting outs through contact and Chapman’s excellent glove at the hot corner undoubtedly helped the likes of Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi, and even Kevin Gausman have the seasons that they did in 2023.
When analyzing poor quality of contact with any batted ball type, Blue Jays pitchers in 2023 had the second most balls in play to the third baseman. Having a four-time Gold Glove winner at third base is ideal when this is the complexion of your pitching staff. 
There’s no doubt about the value that Chapman brings to the field defensively, but, after a couple of up-and-down years offensively, it’s difficult to say if an expensive, long-term contract is the right move for a glove-first player. The Blue Jays need to decide if there are cheaper options so they can spend elsewhere, so let’s go through some options that are available to the Blue Jays externally and internally to play third base.

External Options available for Third Base:

Jeimer Candelario was the best third baseman on the open market after Chapman, but he inked a three-year, $45 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Evan Longoria and Justin Turner are quality veteran hitters but don’t offer much with the glove, while light-hitting names like Gio Urshela and Isiah Kiner-Falefa would be options for their defence.
Given the financial issues of the Cleveland Guardians, Jose Ramirez might become available in a trade. If that is the case, then by all means, do it. Not only was Ramirez comparable to Chapman defensively, as he ranked eighth in OAA, but he’s also among baseball’s best hitters, sporting an .863 OPS over his last three seasons. Adding a switch-hitting slugger into the middle of Toronto’s lineup would be a game-changer.
Another team rumoured to be listening to offers for their third baseman is the Minnesota Twins. Jorge Polanco is one year from free agency and the emergence of Royce Lewis has made his departure from the Twins sort of inevitable. Polanco played third base in 2023 for the first time since all the way back in 2016 and was fine defensively. Adding Polanco would be more for his bat, though, as he slashed a .255/.335/.454 line for the Twins last season.
 

Blue Jays prospects who could fill the role:

With no clear option to acquire via trade and free agency, can the Blue Jays expect someone from within to step up and claim the third base position after spring training?
Maybe Domiano Palmegiani could be that player. He’s done nothing but crush minor-league pitchers. It would seem his bat should hold up since he’s never had a year below a .200 ISO and a wRC+ of 116. He’s expected to make his MLB debut at some point this coming season (as are a lot of prospects), however, for a team in contention, relying on your 18th-best prospect to swoop in and save the day is probably not the best plan. However, an invite to spring training with the hopes of competing for a platoon job shouldn’t be out of the question. It’s just a matter of seeing if his defence can take the next step. 
Slugger Orelvis Martinez seems like a favourite by some. However, I’m not sure if the organization thinks third base is his long-term home. He played short, second, and third base in 2023, and was used most at second after being called up to Triple-A. While his bat is filled with elite power, he would struggle to defend at the same quality Chapman can. A good spring can change some of the doubts, however, the 22-year-old could use another some more run in Triple-A before taking on such a big role.
Addison Barger seems like a good option here, though he spent most of his time in 2023 playing right field for the Buffalo Bisons. This isn’t to say the Blue Jays haven’t been playing him at third, they have plenty, however, with his strong throwing arm, they likely expect his upside to play better in the outfield.
Palmegiani, Martinez, and Barger are all players who could see time at third base with the Blue Jays next season, but none seem ready to take on the full-time gig. If the Blue Jays don’t retain Chapman, what seems most likely is using a combination of Santiago Espinal, Cavan Biggio, and perhaps minor additions like Gio Urshema or Isiah Kiner-Falefa to man the hot corner with an emphasis on defence.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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