The Athletics have been rumored to have interest in pursuing long-term deals with corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in the past, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the A’s did indeed approach Chapman’s camp about an extension at some point. However, agent Scott Boras informed the club that there’s no interest in discussing an extension at this time.
That Oakland already has interest in locking up Chapman beyond his standard level of club control is hardly a surprise; the 24-year-old has flashed one of the most dynamic gloves in all of baseball in his short time in the big leagues (+22 Defensive Runs Saved, +12.2 Ultimate Zone Rating in 868 innings) in addition to plenty of promise at the dish. Chapman hit .234/.313/.472 in 326 plate appearances last season, and he’s significantly reduced his strikeout rate in 2018 (from 28.2 percent to 16.4 percent) while slashing a robust .333/.403/.650 through his first 67 trips to the plate. It’s not clear whether Chapman was approached before or during the current season, but it’s certainly easy to see why the A’s believe him to be a potential cornerstone.
While Chapman is controlled through the 2023 season at present, the Athletics also have a well-documented history of trading players before they reach the end of their CBA-allotted level of team control (as Slusser notes). Josh Donaldson, Sonny Gray, Josh Reddick, Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill and others have been shipped out by the A’s over the past five to six years before reaching the open market — some by just a few months (Reddick) but some as many as three to four years in advance of free agency (Donaldson). An extension for Chapman certainly wouldn’t preclude an eventual trade (as Cahill exemplifies), but establishing cost certainty at a reasonable rate would certainly enhance the chances, especially if the team can indeed secure a new stadium deal around the time that Chapman is presently slotted to hit free agency.
Extensions for players with under a year of big league service time are rare but not unheard of, as Spring Training 2018 made abundantly clear. Paul DeJong’s six-year, $26MM deal with the Cardinals set a new benchmark for players with under a year of big league service back in March, and the Phillies even more aggressively brokered an extension with Scott Kingery before the 24-year-old had played a single game in the Majors. One would imagine that both could be data points in any future talks that arise between the A’s and Boras, though the price will only go up as Chapman accrues more service time and delivers further production at the big league level.
Boras, of course, has a reputation for advising his clients to go through the arbitration process and reach free agency as early as possible, though there have been exceptions to that general guideline. Jered Weaver, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez and Elvis Andrus are among the Boras clients that have signed long-term deals while in their arbitration or pre-arbitration years.
Such deals require mutual interest, though, and as Slusser examines at greater length in the focal point of her column, Oakland’s paltry attendance figures don’t do the club any favors when trying to convince young talent to stay around. Slusser speaks with team president Dave Kaval, second baseman Jed Lowrie and others in highlighting not only the team’s 2018 attendance struggles, but also an unorthodox upcoming promotion in which the A’s are hosting a home game that is free to the public.