Matt Chapman reflects on “really strange off-season” and late offer from the Blue Jays

Toronto is currently in the middle of a West Coast trip before the All-Star break, facing the Seattle Mariners, San Francisco Giants, and Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s also giving them an opportunity to visit some old friends; Trent Thornton and Tayler Saucedo currently reside in the Mariners’ bullpen, and the much-discussed Daulton Varsho trade returns still play in Arizona.

Another one of those players is Giants 3B Matt Chapman, who had a chance to catch up with Blue Jays media prior to their 4-3 win over Toronto last night. Chapman, who had spent the previous two seasons north of the border, provided more clarity on his free agency, including how close he was to putting on a Blue Jays jersey for the 2024 season.

On the same day the Giants made him the one-year, $18 million free agent offer with a couple of player options that he eventually signed, the Blue Jays actually got in touch at the eleventh hour, and made an offer of their own that was similar to the Giants’ offer,” Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet reported during last night’s broadcast. “Chapman felt he had just gone too far down the road with the Giants.

As he alluded to in the above quote, Chapman was a headliner in one of the most prolonged free agencies in recent history. Alongside him were several clients of agent Scott Boras, including OF Cody Bellinger, DH J.D. Martinez, and SPs Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery. Bellinger was the first domino to fall, re-signing with the Chicago Cubs in late February on a three-year, $80 million deal that includes player opt-outs in ’25 and ’26.

Bellinger’s signing moved the attention over to Chapman, spurring the idea that the Blue Jays could re-sign Chapman to similar terms. Opt-outs could be viewed as playing it safe for both sides; if Chapman were to take a deal similar to Bellinger’s, the team would only owe Chapman an amount much like a qualifying offer in the first year. If Chapman were to outperform that year, he could opt to go try free agency again and earn more money.

The Giants, amongst a few other teams, were always frontrunners in signing Chapman as third base was a positional need entering the ’24 offseason. Just a matter of days after the Bellinger news was official, Chapman signed with the Giants on a three-year, $54 million deal with two different player opt-outs, as well as a mutual option for the 2027 season.

It would’ve made sense for the Blue Jays to have some contact with Chapman this past offseason. They, too, were in the market for a third baseman, and they had actually offered Chapman a fairly large contract extension prior to his free agency, but Chapman declined. Chapman started 2023 on a great note, slashing .384/.465/.687 with a 1.152 OPS, 5 homers, 21 RBIs, and 15 doubles between March & April, earning him American League Player of the Month honours. For the remainder of the ’23 season, however, Chapman came back down to Earth, slashing .205/.298/.361 with a .659 OPS.

Offensive numbers aside, Chapman continued to play exceptional defence at the hot corner, earning his fourth Gold Glove award in 2023. In classy fashion, Chapman wasn’t physically given the award until last night when Blue Jays manager John Schneider was there to present it to him.

The most interesting part about the Blue Jays making one final (late) run at Chapman is that they had already signed super-utility man Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year, $15 million deal. Kiner-Falefa had the ability to play third base, but he had also been known to play wherever he was needed. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins didn’t fully commit to Kiner-Falefa being the everyday third baseman after his signing but instead left that topic open until their offseason work was complete. Bringing Chapman back with Kiner-Falefa also on the roster could have caused a trickle-down effect amongst Toronto’s infielders and/or utility players. Does Cavan Biggio’s time expire sooner than it did? Does Ernie Clement make the team? Does Davis Schneider start in Buffalo? Those are all moot points now, but it goes to show how fragile roster construction can be at any point in baseball, let alone the offseason.

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Title: Matt Chapman reflects on “really strange off-season” and late offer from the Blue Jays
Author: Evan Stack

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