Matt Chapman trade notes: Blue Jays make a splash, but blockbuster move comes with some risk

The Toronto Blue Jays acquired third baseman Matt Chapman from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday in exchange for four prospects: right-hander Gunnar Hoglund, infielder Kevin Smith and left-handers Zach Logue and Kirby Sneed.

The Blue Jays had recently been connected to freelance hitters like Freddie Freeman and Kyle Schwarber. Freeman is yet to sign, but Schwarber reportedly reached a deal Wednesday morning with the Philadelphia Phillies. Chapman could therefore become Toronto’s big addition to its roster this offseason. It has the potential to have an impact, even if it carries significant risks.

From Oakland’s perspective, Chapman is the second Matt the Athletics has traded this week, joining new Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson. Factor in right-handed starter Chris Bassitt, who was dealt to the New York Mets last weekend, and the Athletics’ rebuild is well on its way. This probably won’t be the last time this month that Athletics will be featured in one of our Trade Grade articles.

As the name suggests, these rooms are where we rush to judge when evaluating freshly made deals. Sure, our analysis might look silly in a few years, but we’re here to inform and entertain. That said, let’s take a look at the specifics of this profession:

The Blue Jays receive

Athletics receives

  • RHP Gunnar Hoglund
  • INF Kevin Smith
  • LHP Zach Logue
  • LHP Kirby Sneed

Now let’s get to the rankings.

Blue Jays Rating: B

There’s no denying that Chapman is a phenomenal talent. He’s one of the best defensive third basemen in the league, and after more than 2,000 trips to the plate, he boasts a career 120 OPS+. He’s already won the Gold Glove Award three times, and he’s received votes for the Most Valuable Player award twice. He turns 29 in April, but he still has two years left in team control, which means the Blue Jays will likely have him on the job for the duration of his statistical peak.

Still, it has to be written that there are more risks to Chapman’s game than you might think.

Over the past two seasons, Chapman’s strikeout rate has skyrocketed to an uncomfortable degree. While he entered the pandemic era with a career strikeout rate of 23.9%, he’s appeared in more than 33% of his board appearances over the past two seasons. Chapman has always been prone to popping the ball, with a career volley rate of 17%, five percentage points above average.

This combination, strikeouts and pop-ups, now consumes such a large share of Chapman’s board appearances that he will struggle to post a decent average. It’s not 2002; everyone knows that batting average is not the ultimate solution. It is nevertheless the basis on which base and slugging percentages are based. You’re unlikely to hit base 40% of the time or post .500 percent if you’re hitting around .215, as Chapman has been doing for the past two years.

It doesn’t do much to calm anyone’s nerves that Chapman: A) had hip surgery in 2020 that ended his season early; and B) saw its ball tracking metric crater last year. His average exit speed dropped by nearly four miles per hour (though still above league average), and his percentage of balls hit measured at 95 mph or better fell from 53% to 42% . His average flyball distance was also the worst of his career, at 319 feet. (His career average, even with last season taken into account, is 326 feet.)

There’s no way of knowing how many of Chapman’s recent problems have been down to his hip, and there’s no way of knowing if he’ll be able to return to his old form. That’s the goal, right? For as good as he was before 2020 – and he looked like one of the best players in the game – there is a lot of uncertainty about where he will go. In 10 years, will these last two seasons appear as unfortunately timed exceptions, or will they represent the telling beginning of an untimely decline? It’s to do.

Mind you, the Blue Jays should still feel comfortable with this trade. Their roster is good enough that they don’t need Chapman to compete for an American League East crown. Additionally, his defense at a prime position gives him a higher floor than the average player, and his power should play in a friendlier attacking environment. (Namely, Statcast calculations suggest he would have gotten five more times last year had he played his games at Rogers Center.) In other words, there’s a real upside here; there are just more downsides than you think.

CBS Sports’ Fantasy Baseball Today podcast broke down the Chapman trade and more during an Emergency Wednesday episode. Listen below:

Athletics Rating: B

This package may seem light given the value of Chapman’s name and his track record as an impact-level player, but the aforementioned concern over his risk profile has left the industry doubtful the A’s will get a massive return. . What they got, broadly speaking, is a promising young starter and three big-league ready players — one of whom should take Chapman’s place and another who’s a good fit for their ballpark. It’s not the sexiest comeback, but it’s all good considering the larger context.

Hoglund, 22, is the most important part of the athletics package. He was Toronto’s first-round pick last summer, 19th overall thanks to Ole Miss, and he would have gone higher if he hadn’t needed Tommy John surgery in the spring. When healthy, he established himself as a polished right-hander with good control and a spinning heavy arsenal, including a fastball that can hit up to the mid-90s and a cutter-like slider. Provided Hoglund makes a full recovery, he has the potential to become at least a mid-rotation starter. There’s a good chance for even more based on his accuracy and innate height attributes.

Smith, 25, made his league debut last season and saw three-position action in 18 games. (To be fair, 14 of them came on third base.) He didn’t perform well at the plate, hitting for a .382 OPS and batting 11 times in 32 at-bats. Smith has modified his swing in recent years, starting and keeping his hands around his helmet until launch time. The switch apparently helped him bounce back from a tough 2019, as he hit .285/.370/.561 with 21 home runs in 94 Triple-A games. He remains prone to hitting, as he is unlikely to ever have a high average. However, Smith has above-average pop and his ability to play in either position on the left side of the infield gives him a wider stance offensively. Oakland has Nick Allen, one of the top defensive shortstops in the minors, nearing his debut; Smith, then, might consider making the hot corner his own.

Logue, 25, appeared on prospects’ radar last season after improving his speed and amassing a 3.67 ERA and 5.33 strikeout ratio in 125 innings split between Double and Triple-A. He still doesn’t throw hard, but there’s a difference between sitting in the 90s and working in the 80s. Logue’s best pitch is his change and he creates the deception with a forearm lunge . In the void, he projects himself as a back-end starter. The A’s, thanks in part to playing in a cavernous ballpark, have received better-than-expected mileage from other finesse flyball southpaws in the past, including Cole Irvin last season. Logue is expected to attempt to top his scouting report soon, perhaps even as a member of the remade A’s rotation.

Snead, 27, made it to the majors last season and posted a 2.35 ERA and 3.50 strikeout ratio in seven appearances. He’s a pure reliever, a sliding crossfire southpaw with a low trigger point. This slider features an above average sweep and he has shown a willingness to throw it against batters in every hand. Alas, Snead has struggled with right-handers for most of his professional career, suggesting he could become a specialist. At a minimum, he’s a low-cost, out-of-the-box back-up option for an athletic team that continues to strip down its veteran play roster.

About Meredith Campagna

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