With the MLB free agency well all but dried up, attention has already begun shifting toward the trade market, where a team like the Chicago Cubs needs to make a splash to complete their metamorphosis into a playoff-caliber team successfully. Among the team's most glaring needs remains an ace-caliber pitcher, some bullpen depth, and a corner infield upgrade. It may be far-fetched to say they will get all three done this winter, though not necessarily. Specifically, the team could use an upgrade offensively and defensively at third base. One name that the Cubs may try to swing a trade for is Toronto Blue Jays' third baseman, Matt Chapman,
Although Patrick Wisdom has the potential to be a potent weapon for the Cubs offensively if he can limit the strikeouts in 2023, the fact is that the Cubs could use another Gold Glove at the hot corner. Chapman is on year two of his two-year contract with Toronto, and his $12.0MM earned in 2023 coincides nicely with what the Cubs still have available in payroll if they choose to roll out with what they have in the bullpen. They could then opt to save the remaining $8.0MM or so for the trade deadline and address the pen if necessary.
Chapman has won three Gold Gloves and has always been an elite defender. Granted, in 2022, he recorded just one Out Above Average and one run prevented, but in 2021 managed an award-winning 17 OOA and 13 RP. Going back to before the 2020 pandemic season, more of the same. 15 OOA and 11 RP. His defense in a Cubs uniform gives Chicago just about the best infield defense in all of the National League, if not baseball.
Offensively, Chapman's offense suffices. He hit .229/.324/.433 with 27 HRs and 76 RBIs, marking the 4th time in his six-year career that he's hit at least 24 home runs. Given that one of those years was the 2020 shortened season, you start understanding why Chapman owns a career .228 ISO.
Though he batted just .229, he was still good for a 117 wRC+ and 4.1 WAR, according to Fangraphs. If the Cubs approach this trade scenario, the best way to do so would be with the same intentions of extending Chapman the way they inevitably would have wanted to if Rafael Devers wound up on the North Side. In fact, for his whole career, Chapman is a 120 wRC+ hitter. Take a look at every year he's played:
- 2017: 110 wRC+
- 2018: 139 wRC+
- 2019: 125 wRC+
- 2020: 118 wRC+
- 2021: 102 wRC+
- 2022: 117 wRC+
On the Blue Jays' side, losing Chapman for 2023 isn't the worst thing, and it frees up more salary while leaving them with options such as Santiago Espinal or Cavan Biggio to platoon at 3B. So, what exactly could a trade proposal look like?
I foresee the Cubs having no problem moving either of these two, especially if they can extend Chapman and keep him in a Cubs uniform for at least another 4-5 years. Granted, the Cubs will steer clear if they don't see why they can extend him, but if they can, he's one of the more viable options that fills a big hole for the Cubs moving forward. If the Cubs don't land him via trade, I expect him to be circled toward the top of their wish list next winter. However, it makes more sense to grab and lock him up now to avoid him testing the market and better compete in 2023.