Christopher Morel's poor defense in winter ball fuels Matt Chapman speculation

Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game Two / David Berding/GettyImages

The other day, Sahadev Sharma released an article over at The Athletic (subscription required), regarding the Cubs' slow offseason. He discusses Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman but goes into more detail on Chapman and what he could mean to the Chicago Cubs this winter, as teams that desperately need to add a player are starting to disappear.

The fit only makes sense if the Cubs can land Chapman on a shorter-term deal. Blocking top prospect Matt Shaw doesn't seem like something Jed Hoyer is willing to do, given the young infielder's apparent upside. It's understandable if you glance at Chapman's numbers from 2023 and look away, but his 17 home runs, which are a career-low outside of 2020, and his rookie year where he only appeared in 80 games, but you can't just assume a down year means his power is permanently gone, either.

Take J.D. Martinez, for example, who hit just 16 homers in 2022, faced the same power-outage accusations, and went on to slug 33 in 2023 with the Dodgers. Chapman, of course, comes with elite defense at third base, which is something the Cubs value highly. The front office is high on Christopher Morel's bat, but his defense, as witnessed in the Dominican Winter League this winter, left a gruesome reminder of how much of a defensive liability he is at the hot corner.

In 162.2 innings at third base in winter ball, Morel recorded just a .934 fielding percentage, well below the league average. His winter league ends with a slash of .217/.369/.422, only adding fuel to the fire when it comes to the already-present Cubs-Chapman speculation.

The issue with signing Chapman is two-fold. First, we know the team is prioritizing a reunion with Cody Bellinger if they can get him to come down on his asking price. The other issue is the blocking above of Matt Shaw if they have to sign Chapman to a longer-term deal. We don't know if Chapman will accept a short-term, high AAV deal. It's a plausible concept, given that he just finished a two-year deal with Toronto. Expect more soon.

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