What makes Matt Chapman a prime Mariners trade target

Dec 5, 2021, 11:10 AM | Updated: 11:13 am
Mariners Matt Chapman...
Matt Chapman trots around the bases after a home run off of Marco Gonzales in 2019. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

When the MLB lockout eventually ends, the Seattle Mariners will be able to resume their search for impact to add to their lineup.

Podcast: Shannon Drayer’s Mariners Week That Was on 710

Seattle has come up in rumors as a potential landing spot for sluggers Kris Bryant and Trevor Story, two of the premier names remaining in free agency, but the Mariners have also been connected to another All-Star, only this would require a trade. One with a division rival, no less.

The Oakland Athletics are tearing down their roster, and third baseman Matt Chapman is a prime candidate for the M’s to pursue in a trade. He’s estimated to make $9.5 million in his second year of arbitration in 2022, and his reputation for power at the plate and elite-level defense could fetch Oakland a good haul of prospects.

Seems like a pretty natural fit for the Mariners, right? They still have a hole at third base with Kyle Seager’s departure, and Chapman could turn Seattle’s infield into maybe the best defensive infield in all of baseball – certainly the best left side along with fellow Gold Glove winner J.P. Crawford at shortstop.

But is Chapman really somebody the Mariners have their eye on, or is this just a case of it seeming like a fit to everybody but the team?

“I think Matt Chapman remains a huge interest,” Shannon Drayer, Mariners insider of 710 ESPN Seattle, said on the most recent edition of her Talking Mariners podcast.

Now that’s promising.

We’ll get to what else Drayer had to say about Chapman, as well as concerns that her Talking Mariners co-host, James “Boy Howdy” Osborn, has about a possible Chapman trade, in just a second. But first, let’s take a quick look at the player.

The 28-year-old Chapman is a three-time American League Gold Glove winner (including in 2021) and two-time Platinum Glove winner at third base, and he’s basically the closest thing to a modern day Brooks Robinson defensively.

He’s also had a few stellar offensive seasons, including in 2018 – his first full season in the majors – when he posted career-highs in OPS (.864) and all three metrics that make up the slash line (.278 average, .356 on-base percentage, .508 slugging). After hitting 24 homers and driving in 68 runs that year, he built on his power numbers in 2019 with 36 homers and 91 RBIs, earning his first All-Star selection along the way.

Of course, there’s a “but” coming.

Chapman’s batting average has taken a dip every year since his 2018 breakout, falling to .249 in 2019, .232 in the shortened 2020 season, and just .210 this year. He played just 37 games of the 60-game campaign in 2020 and underwent offseason hip surgery, and it was clear he wasn’t the same at the plate in 2021. Though he still had 27 homers and 72 RBIs in 151 games, he struck out a career-worst 202 times and his OPS dipped below .800 for the first time since his rookie season – and well below .800, all the way to .712.

In Drayer’s conversation with Osborn, she laid out why the Mariners may not be worried about what Chapman did offensively in 2021, while Osborn explained why he doesn’t see Chapman as the sole provider of the boost Seattle’s lineup needs. Here’s a bit of what they had to say.

Talking Mariners on Matt Chapman

Shannon Drayer: “I think Matt Chapman remains a huge interest.”

James Osborn: “To me, Matt Chapman is impact potential, but that’s not right off the bat an impact bat.”

Shannon: “I think (the Mariners) see it as it might be.”

Osborn: “That’s gonna be tough for me to swallow because you need a bounce back for him to be considered an impact bat.”

Shannon: “Well, let’s look what he’s bouncing back from. I mean, he was coming back from a very tough surgery all of last year, and then he also was spending the second half of that season on a team that was decidedly going in a very, very bad direction. … He was struggling, he was just missing in the zone, which was was kind of odd. It’s not something that he had done before. And again, coming back from the surgery he was coming back from, he might not have ever gotten comfortable at the plate. He might not have ever found it last year, and then everything starts to snowball. Yet still, when he was connecting he was getting his power numbers. And the defense obviously did not take a hit over third base.”

Osborn: “He is primed to bounce back. That said, he has to bounce back in order for that to be an impact move. … Plus, you have to give up prospects for Matt Chapman. He’s not going to come cheap. I don’t think the A’s at all are going to sell their guys cheap, because everybody’s going to be salivating over the guys they have.”

Shannon: “And I think a lot of teams have been sitting back and waiting for (the new collective bargaining agreement), the (teams) that you’re not hearing about right now. (A’s All-Star first baseman) Matt Olson is going to be a huge target (on the trade market). The (A’s) pitching is going to be a huge target. Chapman, maybe a little bit less because of the unease that you have – that I do not believe that the Mariners have.”

Osborn: “I agree with you – there are going to be some teams that are more scared away than others, and the Mariners will have a better read on Matt Chapman than most based on how much time they get to see him in person. You know what he’s like in the AL West, you know what he’s like against all these pitchers. There’s a lot of known quantity there. I would trust that if the Mariners make that deal, they believe that it’s probably going to work out. From an outsider’s perspective, I have more concern.”

You can hear the full discussion starting about 44 minutes into the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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