Last Updated on November 1, 2023 at 7:18 pm by Esteban Quiñones
The New York Yankees are in dire need of a rejuvenation this offseason after a prolonged postseason absence and a prolonged World Series drought dating back to 2009. The quest for change and improvement was aptly highlighted by star outfielder Aaron Judge during his acceptance speech for the Roberto Clemente Award in Phoenix during the World Series. Judge’s words resonated throughout the organization as they acknowledged that significant transformations are required, spanning philosophical shifts, player acquisitions, and coaching modifications to steer the team back to the grandest stage of baseball.
Can Chapman propel the Yankees back to glory?
The Yankees have never shied away from opening their coffers in the pursuit of free agent talent, but recent history has underscored the importance of making judicious financial decisions. The Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies serve as cautionary tales, having made high-profile, big-money signings that didn’t translate into on-field success.
With an eye toward the 2024 season, the Yankees find themselves in need of an infusion of power. Their 219 home runs in the previous season ranked a respectable ninth in the Majors, but they paled in comparison to the Atlanta Braves’ commanding 307 long balls. The gap was even more pronounced in terms of runs batted in, where the Yankees languished at 25th place with 650 RBIs, nearly 300 runs adrift from the leading Braves.
Another glaring deficiency for the Yankees lies in the realm of third base play. In this context, Matt Chapman, the Toronto Blue Jays’ third baseman entering free agency, emerges as a tantalizing prospect. Chapman offers the kind of dynamic power and steady defensive skills that the Yankees sorely need.
Matt Chapman enters free agency with a reputation as a top-tier talent, as recognized by The Athletic. In 2023, the 30-year-old posted a slash line of .240/.330/.424/.755 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs over 140 games played. His .240 batting average mirrors his career average over seven seasons. While he hasn’t replicated the stellar 36-home run season from his All-Star year with the Oakland Athletics in 2019, he’s shown his power with 27 homers in both 2021 and 2022 while delivering a 24-home run season in 2018. Defensively, he’s a stalwart at the hot corner, boasting three AL Gold Glove awards and accumulating 92 defensive runs saved over his career.
The Athletic’s projection suggests that Chapman could command a lucrative six-year, $127 million contract in the free agent market. This raises the pertinent question: how would Chapman fit into the Yankees’ lineup? The answer is evident: he slots in at third base. Chapman has predominantly played as a third baseman in his 868 Major League appearances, with 861 of those games coming at the hot corner. There’s no significant positional flexibility for Chapman in this regard.
His addition to the roster would signify a significant upgrade in terms of power over DJ LeMahieu, who split his 136 games in the previous season between multiple positions, including 69 games at third base. Importantly, if the Yankees opt for Chapman, it doesn’t necessitate parting ways with LeMahieu, who still has three years left on his contract. In this scenario, it’s LeMahieu who brings positional versatility, being capable of playing both first and second base.
Chapman would also offer experience and stability at third base compared to Oswald Peraza, who managed 36 games at the position last season. Peraza, with his defensive versatility across the middle infield, might find his role shifting to accommodate Chapman’s arrival. Oswaldo Cabrera saw some time at third base in the previous year, but his primary role was in the outfield.
If the Yankees are indeed in pursuit of a third base upgrade, Matt Chapman stands out as the premier option in this year’s free agency. His combination of power and defensive prowess could provide the team with the missing pieces needed to make a triumphant return to the postseason and potentially break the long-standing World Series drought.
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