HomeMLB RumorsGiants To Sign Matt Chapman

Giants To Sign Matt Chapman

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Matt Chapman is headed back to the Bay Area. The four-time Gold Glove winner has reportedly agreed to terms with the Giants on a three-year, $54MM guarantee. The Boras Corporation client can opt out after each of the next two seasons.

He’ll make $20MM this season, followed by successive $18MM and $16MM player options. The contract has an $18MM average annual value for competitive balance tax purposes. San Francisco will need to make a 40-man roster move once the deal is finalized.

Chapman, 31 next month, reunites with Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Bob Melvin. He’s familiar with both from his early days with the A’s. Chapman was a first-round pick by Oakland in 2014 and debuted three years later. He stepped in as one of the sport’s best all-around players.

The Cal State Fullerton product put up a .255/.336/.503 batting line through his first three and a half seasons. He paired that with the best third base defense in the American League. Chapman finished among the top 10 in AL MVP balloting in 2018 and ’19, securing Gold Glove honors in both years.

Chapman’s 2020 season was cut short by a labrum tear in his right hip. He underwent surgery that September, shutting him down for the year. While it wasn’t clear at the time, that injury has proven to be something of a turning point in his career. His offensive production hasn’t been the same since he made his return.

The right-handed hitter stumbled to a career-worst .210/.314/.403 line in 2021. The A’s dealt him to the Blue Jays the following offseason. Chapman’s offensive production ticked up slightly in Toronto, but he hasn’t found his 2018-19 form outside of a scorching April last year.

After a .229/.324/.433 showing in 2022, Chapman entered his platform season looking to reestablish himself as a middle-of-the-order force. He began the year as the hottest hitter on the planet. Chapman mashed at a .384/.465/.687 clip through the end of April. While he’d cut his strikeout rate to a 22.8% mark in the season’s first month, his whiffs spiked as the summer approached. A dismal May kicked off what proved to be a disappointing finish to his Jays tenure.

Over his final 467 plate appearances, Chapman hit .205/.298/.361 with a strikeout rate near 30%. By the second half, he was often hitting in the bottom third of the lineup. The Jays briefly sent him to the injured list in late August for a sprain of the middle finger on his right hand. It’s possible that had an adverse effect on his offense, but the biggest concern is that he didn’t sustain the strides in contact rate he had seemed to make early on.

That presented a tough evaluation for teams as he hit the open market for the first time. Even if he’s no longer an MVP-caliber player, Chapman is still an above-average regular. He has drawn walks in more than 10% of his plate appearances in each of the last three seasons. He connected on 27 homers in both 2021 and ’22. That dipped to 17 longballs a year ago, yet that’s not a reflection of a drop in his contact quality.

Chapman actually hit the ball harder than ever last season, averaging 93.5 MPH in exit velocity. He made hard contact (defined as 95+ MPH) on 56.4% of batted balls. That was the highest rate for any qualified hitter in the majors, narrowly ahead of impact bats like former teammate Matt OlsonJuan SotoRonald Acuña Jr.Rafael Devers and Shohei Ohtani.

He remains an asset on the other side of the ball. Chapman’s defensive grades aren’t quite as eye-popping as they were early in his career, but he’s still a plus at third base. Both Statcast and Defensive Runs Saved have rated him as an above-average defender in every season of his career. That includes an estimated three runs better than par by Statcast and an excellent +12 mark from DRS over more than 1200 innings last season.

Infield defense was an issue for the Giants, particularly on the left side. San Francisco led longtime shortstop Brandon Crawford walk in free agency. They’re set to turn that position to 22-year-old Marco Luciano. Incumbent third baseman J.D. Davis drew mixed reviews from defensive metrics last season. There’s no question that Chapman will be an upgrade on that side of the ball. While there had been some speculation the Giants could consider kicking Chapman up the defensive spectrum to shortstop, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that he’ll stick at the hot corner at Oracle Park.

San Francisco has targeted Chapman throughout the offseason, having been tied to him as early as the middle of November. They were content to wait out the market as he was one of a handful of top free agents who lingered well into Spring Training.

A $54MM guarantee certainly isn’t what his camp had in mind at the beginning of the offseason. Chapman had reportedly declined a 10-year, $150MM extension offer from the A’s back in 2019. He also reportedly passed on an offer from Toronto that would’ve topped $100MM at some point before he got to free agency. Whatever asking price he had set at the beginning of the winter wasn’t met. As with fellow Boras Corporation client Cody Bellinger, Chapman turned to a short-term deal that gives him the chance to get back to the market next offseason instead.

He was one of seven players to receive and decline a qualifying offer in November. The QO would have been valued at $20.325MM, a hair above what he now stands to make next season. This contract structure is certainly preferable to taking the qualifying offer — there’s added security built in via the player options in case he struggles or suffers an injury — but the end result could be similar. The likeliest outcome is that he collects a $20MM salary in 2024 and retests the market next winter.

It remains to be seen if it would treat him more kindly the next time around. He’d be entering his age-32 season with a profile that is heavily dependent on defense. Chapman won’t be eligible for another qualifying offer — players can’t receive that more than once in their careers, per the CBA — but he’s unlikely to be the clear top free agent at the position, as he was this winter. Alex Bregman headlines next year’s third base class, which will also include Davis.

The Giants surrender their second-highest pick in the upcoming draft (#51 overall) and $500K in international signing bonus space to add a player who had declined the QO. The Jays were one of eight teams that paid the luxury tax last season, so their compensation is minimal. They’ll get an extra draft choice after the fourth round, roughly 136th overall.

It’s a bigger penalty for the Giants than it is compensation for Toronto. It’s one the Giants are nevertheless happy to pay to get Chapman at a price well below what they could have expected coming into the offseason. (MLBTR predicted he’d receive six-year, $150MM pact at the start of the winter.) The contract pushes their 2024 player payroll to roughly $183MM, as calculated by RosterResource. They’re around $231MM in luxury tax obligations, keeping them $6MM shy of next year’s threshold.

If they want to avoid the CBT, that wouldn’t leave a ton of room for in-season acquisitions. It’s possible they’re comfortable exceeding the threshold for the first time since 2017. San Francisco has been tied to Blake Snell (and to a much lesser extent) Jordan Montgomery. They’re still in clear need of rotation help, particularly after expected #5 starter Tristan Beck underwent surgery on Friday to address an aneurysm.

Forfeiting a draft choice to sign Chapman to a contract that allows him to opt out after one season is the clearest win-now move of San Francisco’s offseason. They’ve also brought in Jung Hoo Lee to take center field, Jorge Soler at designated hitter, and signed Jordan Hicks to a four-year pact to transition to the rotation. Revamping the lineup to that extent without adding more certainty behind Logan Webb, Hicks, and rookie Kyle Harrison seems unlikely.

Davis is set for a $6.9MM salary in his final season of arbitration and just lost his spot in the starting lineup. Soler and Wilmer Flores are ahead of him as right-handed hitters who’ll factor in at DH at first base, respectively. Flipping Davis to a team that needs third base help before Opening Day could clear spending room for the Giants and seems the best outcome for him personally. There’s very likely more to come at Oracle Park in the next three weeks.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post first reported the agreement, opt-outs, and salary breakdown. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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