Cubs Rumors

Does a deal with Matt Chapman make sense for the Cubs?

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After a long and primarily uneventful offseason seemed to have been capped off by the signing of Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs fans are less than a month away from seeing a team revamped at the margins in many ways take the field for Opening Day.

Missing the postseason by just one game in 2023, the Cubs' offseason has been headlined by the signings of Cody Bellinger along with starter Shota Imanaga and former Astros reliever Hector Neris.

Despite being a week into spring training, there remains room to improve for teams around the league, with third baseman Matt Chapman among the top-level free agents who are still unsigned.

For a team without a clear plan for third base in 2024 and an equally clear need for another power bat, Chapman appears on the surface to be a perfect fit for the Cubs as he searches for a multi-year deal after winning his fourth career Gold Glove last year.

Yet entering his age-31 season and offering a mixed bag offensively, Chapman's desire for a long-term deal and the Cubs' long-term plans aren't exactly compatible.

While Chapman is a four-time Gold Glove Award-winner with the hitting profile of a bona fide third baseman, his up-and-down 2023 season at the plate has raised questions among potential suitors.

Posting a .240/.330/.424 slash line with 39 doubles and 17 home runs in 2023, Chapman's above average season was carried by an otherworldly April, when he was 38-for-99 with 15 doubles and a video game-like 1.152 OPS.

Chapman batted at a .202 average or lower in four of the season's other five months, with a brief hot stretch in July keeping his season from complete freefall.

Despite the questionable results in 2023 offensively, Chapman remains a premier defender, accumulating 1.6 defensive WAR last year while taking home yet another Gold Glove.

Yet with a dynamic power-hitting prospect in Matt Shaw waiting in the wings for the Cubs at third base, it may be tough to find common ground on a deal for Chapman and the North Siders.

Shaw, 22, put up jaw-dropping numbers in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Cubs out of the University of Maryland.

In 38 games across the Rookie, High-A and Double-A levels, Shaw was 56-for-157 with eight home runs, 15 stolen bases and a stellar 1.018 OPS. An experienced college bat, Shaw may only be another year away from being an everyday player at the MLB level.

As for Chapman, who turns 31 in April, this offseason still presents the best opportunity to cash in on a lucrative, multi-year deal.

Debuting at the age of 24, it may be a thought of some across the game that Chapman's most productive years are behind him, with the right-handed slugger posting back-to-back top 10 MVP finishes in 2018-19 with the Oakland Athletics.

While never being an incredibly high-average hitter, Chapman's power and defensive ability have done the heavy lifting in making him one of the game's most valuable two-way players over the past five-to-six seasons.

Though Chapman does have a 36 home run campaign to his name, his next highest total in a season is 27, with much of his 2023 power being driven to center field, possibly limiting his home run total.

Even with the concerns present, Chapman remains an obvious and excellent fit for the Cubs -- albeit just for one or two seasons, a need that is almost certainly incompatible with what the third baseman and agent Scott Boras are seeking.

While Cody Bellinger ended up signing a short-term, high average annual value deal with the Chicago Cubs after a massive blockbuster contract didn't materialize, the age difference in the two clients may explain why a deal like Bellinger's may not work for Chapman.

At 28 years old, Bellinger's deal gives the utilityman two opportunities to opt out of his contract and search for a long-term contract at ages 29 and 30. With Chapman turning 31 in April on the heels of a season with more offensive lows than highs, a short-term prove-it deal would almost certainly mean leaving significant cash on the table.

Yet with the extremely slow pace of the 2023 offseason and Boras' other star clients in Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell and J.D. Martinez remaining available, Chapman's most lucrative offer may be a short-term deal.

While the Cubs should keep their distance from any talks of a five-to-six year deal for Matt Chapman, any possibility of a short-term contract as the season draws nearer should be aggressively pursued by Jed Hoyer and company.

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