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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Matt Chapman

The third baseman wouldn’t come cheap, but would change the tenor of the infield.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like every member of the Oakland A’s could be a part of this series, with the franchise apparently waving the white flag on 2022 after letting their beloved manager Bob Melvin go over to the San Diego Padres and continuing to flirt with moving the franchise to Las Vegas. I previously wrote about the other Oakland Matt as a slam dunk prospect for the first base role, if the Yankees could get him — third baseman Matt Chapman has a lot of similar appeal.

Chapman, who debuted in 2017, will turn 29 early in the 2022 season. He isn’t eligible for free agency until 2024. And he’s earned a bit of hardware in his career so far, with one All-Star Game selection and three Gold Gloves. If Gold Gloves are understandably not your cup of tea, he won back-to-back Platinum Gloves in 2018 and 2019 for his prowess at third.

However, Chapman was not his best self over the last two seasons, even though he was certainly a good player. His 2021 fWAR was 3.4 — an increase from the 1.2 he put up in the shortened 2020 season, but not quite the 6.7 and 6.1 marks he had in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Perhaps that means Oakland would be willing to give him up for a more reasonable return than if he’d been traded a few years ago, more similar to what they might be seeking for Olson.

Chapman’s calling card, even when he’s underperforming on offense, has been his skills on defense. FanGraphs has his career UZR as 47.3, and Baseball Savant lists his 2021 outs above average as 17 — in the 99th percentile of all of baseball. After a 2021 season spent watching Yankees infielders engaged in various misadventures on defense, Chapman would be a breath of fresh air.

As the roster is currently constructed, third base is likely to be manned by some combination of Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu. Chapman is by far a better fielder than both, and has a much higher offensive upside than Urshela. Chapman hit 27 home runs in 2021, but had as many as 36 as recently as 2019. His .210/.314/.403 line this past season wasn’t terribly exciting, but that batting average and slugging percentage was the lowest of his career — assuming he’s healthy, I’d bet on those numbers being higher in 2022.

Based on his stats on Baseball Savants, Chapman’s primary issues last season were chasing too many pitches — he had 202 strikeouts, a franchise record for a franchise that’s been around a while. Perhaps these woes could be traced to the hip surgery he had in September 2020 — the need for the surgery could certainly explain his lower stats earlier in that season. If Chapman was still not at full strength over this season, that would explain his lower power numbers and perhaps why his timing was off.

To be fair, the possibility also exists that his hip didn’t heal correctly and that he could theoretically need another surgery. But if Chapman could be had from the rebuilding A’s for a deal that wouldn’t cost the Yankees all of their top prospects, I think it would be a gamble worth making. Chapman might the player the A’s are least inclined to move this offseason, however. It might a long shot, but it’s a deal worth exploring.