Before hip surgery knocked Matt Chapman out of the 2020 playoffs, the A’s had offered their superstar third baseman a 10-year extension worth $150MM, writes The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. After the hip injury, rejecting that offer was a decision that caused some second-guessing on Chapman’s part. Some two years after Oakland attempted to extend Chapman, the offer exists only as a comparative tool.
Chapman will play out his remaining arbitration seasons in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform. The Jays maintain team control over Chapman for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, after which the Scott Boras client can head to free agency to test open waters. Rosenthal crunched the numbers and found that Chapman will need to essentially sign a six-year, $122MM deal when he reaches free agency to make his decision to reject the extension look like a wise one. That’s doable if he’s able to stay healthy.
On the field, Chapman was healthy again in 2021, and again a Gold Glove Award winner at the hot corner. He ranked tied for fourth among third baseman in defensive runs saved by The Fielding Bible awards in 2021.
His offense, however, didn’t quite return to its previous heights. With a .210/.314/.403 line across 622 plate appearances, Chapman’s 101 wRC+ was the lowest mark of his career, though certainly a respectable enough number when paired with first-rate glovework. Being another season away from hip surgery could help Chapman rebound further in 2022, and playing his home games away from the Coliseum won’t hurt either.
At least for the next two seasons, Toronto should have a productive regular on a short-term, relatively valuable deal. MLBTR’s projected arbitration figure for 2021 is $9.5MM, an exceedingly affordable price of admission to watch Chapman man the hot corner day-in-and-day-out.
He’ll essentially take over for Marcus Semien as the veteran superstar tasked with playing alongside young star Bo Bichette. Chapman’s addition has the additional effect of sliding Cavan Biggio back to the keystone. As good as Chapman has been in the past, he has big shoes to fill after Semien posted near-MVP numbers during his one year in Toronto.
And while Chapman’s personal narrative may, in part, be tied to the measure of team success this version of the Blue Jays is able to achieve, in reality, there are too many individual threads tied to this Toronto team to attribute much of their future success or failure to Chapman alone.
Chapman’s personal narrative – and his future contract negotiations – will tie much more directly to three factors: personal health, on-field performance, and, likely, the shape of the free agent landscape two offseasons from now. As of right now, it would appear likely that the Chapman-Toronto alliance will last for just two seasons before he hits free agency.
A long-term deal can’t be ruled out, of course, but odds are against it. For one, Boras prefers taking his clients to free agency. Second, the Blue Jays have other players (namely, Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) who are going to require long-term commitments that will add to a payroll already weighted down with a chunky deals for Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman, and George Springer. Thirdly, top prospect Orelvis Martinez is quickly rising through the ranks, and he may be ready to take over sooner rather than later.
All that being said, if the feel-good Blue Jays continue to feel good, Chapman may like playing in Toronto. It’s worth wondering, as well, if Chapman’s injury and previous extension rejection will change his feelings about another such offer, should Toronto choose to make one. At worst, the Blue Jays and Chapman have two seasons to enjoy one another’s company. Then we can find out whether Chapman made the right financial decision in rejecting Oakland’s extension offer.