The Blue Jays have placed third baseman Matt Chapman on the 10-day injured list due to a sprained right middle finger, per a team announcement. Infielder Ernie Clement has been recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to take his spot on the active roster. Chapman exited yesterday’s game with discomfort in that finger, and manager John Schneider revealed after the game that it had been bothering Chapman for several weeks after a weight room accident.
Chapman’s season began with a blistering hot streak that saw the former A’s slugger briefly regain the MVP-caliber form he’d displayed earlier in his career. Through the end of April, the two-time Platinum Glove winner posted an outrageous .384/.465/.687 batting line with a 12.3% walk rate and 22.8% strikeout rate. That checked in 115% better than league average, by measure of wRC+, but Chapman’s previous strikeout woes have since come roaring back since that time. In 406 plate appearances dating back to May 1, he’s batted .211/.303/.360 with a 30% strikeout rate.
The past few weeks have indeed been particularly difficult; Schneider didn’t place an exact date on Chapman’s injury, but he’s hitting .194/.256/.278 since the trade deadline — a far cry from the month of July, when he looked to be on the upswing (.247/.402/.506). Chapman averaged a hefty 94.2 mph off the bat with a massive 59.3% hard-hit rate through Aug. 1 of this season, but since the deadline he’s been at 89.5 mph and 41.3%, respectively, in those regards. It seems rather clear that something hasn’t been right.
It’s not presently known just how long Chapman will be sidelined, though the Jays will certainly hope for a swift return. Even as his bat has fallen off, Chapman has continued to play his customary brand of excellent defense at third base. His batted-ball profile also creates some consistent hope for a turnaround at the plate. Players who can consistently make high-end contact at Chapman’s rate tend to eventually see their production line up with those batted-ball trends. Toronto is currently 2.5 games out of the American League Wild Card hunt as well, and getting a healthy Chapman back into the lineup would be a boon as they look to chase down the Rays, Rangers and Astros — who currently hold those three Wild Card spots.
A speedy return to the lineup will also be of importance to Chapman himself, who’s slated to become a free agent for the first time at season’s end. The month of August hasn’t gone as he’d hoped following a productive July, and the ideal scenario for him would be to allow that barking hand to heal and finish out the season on a productive stretch. A qualifying offer for Chapman appears quite likely, and provided he can return and finish out the season with a strong performance, he’d have little hesitation in rejecting it in favor of a multi-year deal. Up-and-down as his season may have been, Chapman is currently batting .248/.338/.431 on the whole — production that’s about 13% better than league average, per wRC+. Coupled with his standout glovework and the general upside of his batted-ball profile, he’d still be one of the market’s most sought-after free agents — albeit not to the extent that he’d have been had he maintained his plus offensive output all season.