Matt Chapman Predicted to Land With Surprise American League Team

matt chapman

Getty Third baseman Matt Chapman is still in need of a new home for 2024 and beyond. Could the Tigers come out of nowhere to land him?

Free agent third baseman Matt Chapman has a lot to offer an MLB team. He’s a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and has proven to be a consistent threat to slug 20 home runs per season at the plate. But as spring training games get underway, he’s still unsigned.

His market has been rather quiet this winter. Does that mean a surprise team like the Detroit Tigers could find a way to sign him?

That’s what Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller thinks could happen. He played matchmaker with some of the top unsigned free agents back on February 18. While the San Francisco Giants are another plausible landing spot, Miller predicted outfielder Cody Bellinger to sign with them. Instead of adding another position player to the Giants’ hypothetical offseason haul, he’s sending Chapman to the Motor City.

His reasoning was three-pronged. Detroit has a need at third base and still has over $20 million to spend, along with a reasonable shot at contending in 2024. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a six-year, $150 million deal for him at the start of free agency. Miller wondered if the price could go down to five years and $100 million.

Chapman landing with the Tigers would be surprising because they haven’t once been connected to the third baseman. But when the free-agent market moves as slowly as it has, it could force teams to get involved who otherwise wouldn’t have been.

But What About Gio Urshela?

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on February 22 that infielder Gio Urshela was in agreement with the Tigers on a one-year, $1.5 million deal. FanGraphs’ Roster Resource is immediately slotting Urshela in as Detroit’s starting third baseman.

Signing the right-handed hitter appears to be a great low-risk/high-reward opportunity. However, it’s not like Urshela should block someone like Chapman should he become a legitimate option for the organization.

Passan also noted that Urshela can play a variety of positions. Outside of the hot corner, he’s also spent time at first base, second base and shortstop in recent years.

Chapman Would Help Detroit in a Wide-Open AL Central

Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have the Tigers finishing third in the American League Central this season with 74.6 wins and 87.4 losses. The Cleveland Guardians (83 wins) and Minnesota Twins (89 wins) are both ahead of them.

It feels like the AL Central is up for grabs each year, though. Here’s a look at which teams have won the division over the past five full seasons and how many wins it took:

  • 2023: Twins, 87
  • 2022: Guardians, 92
  • 2021: White Sox, 93
  • 2019: Twins, 101
  • 2018: Guardians, 91

The only other projected 2024 division winner with fewer wins based on PECOTA projections is the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. They’re projected to take home the crown with just 85 wins.

Only signing Chapman probably wouldn’t put the Tigers over the edge, but it’d certainly help. Detroit’s current payroll of $92.8 million ranks 21st in baseball, per Spotrac. If 2023 is used as the barometer, the Tigers spent just over $121 million. So, they can afford him. Chapman would help this team get better, and it’d also lengthen the bench by pushing Urshela into a utility role.

However, it remains to be seen if the organization has any interest in taking advantage of a slow-moving market for a player that doesn’t seem to have many teams aggressively pursuing him.

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