After all, the team’s -0.2 fWAR at third ranked them 26th in MLB. In 2023, the Arizona Diamondbacks triaged third base with a combination of Evan Longoria (0.1 fWAR), Emmanuel Rivera (0.3 fWAR), and, for the last half of the season, Jace Peterson (0.4 fWAR).
Longoria is now a free agent, and while the D-backs were effusive in praising the leadership he provided for a young team, it seems unlikely that he will return. Given that neither Rivera nor Peterson were stellar, probably only one will be the D-backs’ roster in 2024. Moreover, general manager Mike Hazen made clear at his postseason press conference that the D-backs will look to upgrade at third base, which includes going outside the organization.
That brings us to the free-agent market and one of the best free-agent third basemen available, former Toronto Blue Jay Matt Chapman. MLB Trade Rumors predicts Chapman will sign a six-year, $150 million contract. With this in mind, let’s consider whether this would be a good move for a young D-backs team with a window of contention just opening.
Remind me: Who is this guy (and didn’t he go to the same high school as Nolan Arenado)?
A native of Lake Forrest, California, Matt Chapman did indeed attend El Toro High School, alma mater of future Hall of Famer Nolan Arenado — though the St. Louis Cardinal was two years ahead of Chapman. So there’s something in the water at El Toro that leads to exceptional third basemen.
After high school, Chapman attended Cal State Fullerton before being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Chapman made his MLB debut in 2017 and was traded to the Blue Jays before the start of the 2022 season.
The 30 year old is a defensive wizard who has accumulated four Gold Gloves, two Platinum Gloves, and two Fielding Bible Awards. He was also the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and an All-Star in 2019.
Impressive. So, Chapman is kind of a third-base vacuum cleaner?
Well, yes. He’s earned a career DRS of 92 with his high point being 28 DRS in 2019. In 2023, he had 12 DRS, so not as good, but also, this keeps him in the top tier of elite defenders. Among third baseman this year, he ranks third. So Chapman has slowed down a bit, but he’s still very good.
Consider, then, Fielding Run Value, which is Baseball Savant’s measure of a player’s overall defense, Chapman has a score of three. (For third basemen, the highest score is Ke’Bryan Hayes’ 13.) In terms of Outs Above Average, Champman has earned four, which is 11th when compared to all third basemen.
Would he be a defensive upgrade for the D-backs? Absolutely, and it’s not close.
Okay, then, how’s the offense?
That’s been less consistent.
Chapman has a career wRC+ of 118, so well above average. In 2023, he had a wRC+ of 110 after a smoking-hot first half and a much-cooler second half. In 541 plate appearances, he slashed .240/.330/.424 with 17 home runs, like this one.
That would play at Chase Field, and it helps that Chapman is a right-handed bat, which the D-backs need. However, like most players as they age, Chapman has shown a steady decline. His 2023 fWAR of 3.5 is a decrease from the 4.2 he had in 2022. (His career best was 6.3 fWAR in 2018.)
Still, he would mark an offensive improvement for the Diamondbacks. Among all third baseman, his 3.3 fWAR makes him the sixth most valuable at that position.
Cut to the chase then: Should the D-backs sign Matt Chapman?
Probably not. He’s going to get paid, and he’s going to earn a long-term contract — which he’s earned. Still, it’s difficult to see the D-backs making that kind of commitment to a position player. They might be willing to do that for a pitcher because the D-backs — like every MLB team — need pitching. But given the youth and potential of this team, it’s hard to see the D-backs committing that much money for perhaps six years to an aging third baseman. If Chapman were, say, 28, maybe. But the D-backs have a strong farm system that will probably allow them to trade for a player who would fit better with their budget and needs.
Jeimer Candelario’s name is getting tossed around a lot — and that would be a better signing than Matt Chapman for the D-backs — but look for Mike Hazen to land a third baseman through a trade and to spend his budget on pitching.