Pending free agent Matt Chapman open to returning to Toronto Blue Jays, and they should be open to re-signing him

Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
2 months ago
A tumultuous 2023 campaign for Matt Chapman has come to a close and the pending free agent says he’s open to a potential return to Canada’s lone MLB team.
Chapman started the season like a madman slashing .384/.465/.687 with five home runs across 27 games through April. His power was evident as he hit a home run every 22.8 plate appearance, but his bat cooled off immensely the rest of the way.
From the start of May through the end of the season, his slash line plummeted to .203/.294/.364 hitting 12 home runs. His home run per plate appearance rate dropped heavily to 46.4 across those final 113 games, too.
And as noted by Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, Chapman is open to re-signing with the Jays.
For the Toronto Blue Jays, this is excellent news. While he left a lot to be desired in terms of his bat, he more than made up for it with his elite fielding on the hot corner. His FanGraphs defence rating of 5.9 was sixth among 170 played qualified players, while his offence still had him 10th and ahead of guys like Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Among 112 qualified fielders at any position, his 12 defensive runs saved ranked 13th, and third among third-basemen.
And when you look at Chapman’s offensive season as a whole, they’re more than palatable. A 9.2 offence rating is 10th among qualified third-basemen, while his 110 wRC+ ranks 12th and his .328 wOBA 13th. They’re not exactly numbers to write home about, but it shows that over a larger sample size, they were not as bad as some make it out to be.
Days like today where the emotions are still running high over Chapman’s inability cash in runs against the Twins are understandably frustrating. and it’s understandable why some fans are clamouring for the club to move on from him.
The big question: who replaces his 3.5 fWAR — the second-best of any Jays player this season — at the hot corner next year?
Asking a young player like Addison Barger or Orelviz Martinez, for example, to step in and do so for a full season would be putting them in a position to fail. Could Davis Schneider, who filled in admirably for a few games there this year, step in and do so? Entirely possible, but he makes more sense as the easy replacement for Whit Merrifield this year as a utility player who can play second base and play a bit of outfield.
The free-agent options to replace Chapman aren’t exactly exciting. Jemier Candelario, Giovanny Urshela, Evan Longoria, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Mike Moustakas, Josh Donaldson, Eduardo Escobar, Joey Wendle and Matt Duffy are among the names on the list. Over the last two years, none come close to touching Chapman’s production either offensively, or defensively. The other issue? Next to Kiner-Falefa and Candelario, Chapman is still the youngest of the bunch at 30-years-old.
Matt ChapmanTOR295120244149130610.80%27.90%0.1950.2980.2340.3270.4290.331145.324.810.37.7
Jeimer Candelario3 Tms26410433512612087.80%22.60%0.1850.2760.2360.3070.4210.315100-1.5-0.7-2.13.1
Gio Urshela2 Tms20677915838846.50%16.90%0.1230.3320.290.3350.4130.325111-7.91.6-0.52.8
Josh Donaldson2 Tms183735287788210.30%26.90%0.1820.2420.2040.2930.3860.29793-7.2-
Evan Longoria2 Tms16353525567009.30%29.20%0.2030.2880.2350.3070.4380.32105-4.8-1.6-31.4
Eduardo Escobar2 Tms236851269010026.80%24.30%0.1630.2830.2350.2860.3980.295901.8-8.2-8.51.3
Matt Duffy2 Tms1564564313216.40%19.50%0.0670.3080.2510.3070.3170.2875-2.1-15.3-1.8-0.2
Mike Moustakas3 Tms19067119737327.00%25.30%0.1390.2860.2330.2940.3730.2977-1.7-19.9-10.8-0.8
According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, the qualifying offer this season is expected to be roughly $20.5-million — a number that would be a marked increase over his $12.5-million salary he had for this past season. Could he accept that offer, or a reasonable two-year deal? Entirely possible, and one I would encourage the team to pursue.
But given the soft free-agent market, it’s entirely possible a team like the New York Yankees bucks up and offers Chapman a bank vault worth of money.
In that case, there’s not much the Jays could do.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.


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