Bring Matt Chapman to Flushing
If Oakland is selling, the Mets should be buying...
Late Thursday afternoon, the San Diego Padres reportedly came to an agreement with longtime Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin on a three-year deal as their next manager, per AJ Cassavell of MLB.com.
This is big news.
Melvin, who turned 60 on Thursday, had been a steady, recognizable, effective hand at the wheel in Oakland for 11 seasons, taking a perennially underfunded roster to the postseason six times with a .528 winning percentage over that span.
The A’s simply letting him walk (there was no compensation involved, per Cassavell) clearly indicates more big moves could be on the horizon.
Front office in place or not, the New York Mets should be preparing to go all-in on that fire sale.
The Mets already missed out on a presumed top managerial target in Melvin, a three-time Manager of the Year Award-winner (2007 with Arizona; 2012 and 2018 with the A’s). There’s no reason to whiff on a roster-strengthening move or two.
Oakland has 10 arbitration-eligible players on their active roster heading into the offseason: Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, Chad Pinder, Frankie Montas, Tony Kemp, Lou Trivino, Deolis Guerra, Ramón Laureano, Matt Olson, and Matt Chapman.
That last one, that’s the silver tuna.
Well, the last three are studs, if we’re being honest. Bassitt’s pretty darn efficient, too. Anyway, we’re talking about Chappy aka Pegasus (hey, don’t look at me, it’s on his baseball-reference page).
Since making his MLB debut in 2017, Chapman has been an above-average offensive player (120 wRC+; .243/.330/.478, 111 home runs in 573 games) and a defensive benchmark at third base (49 outs above average; 10th in MLB among all position players; second among third baseman, Nolan Arenado, 59 OAA).
Though, over 188 games between 2020 and 2021, Chapman’s also been a strikeout machine, getting punched out at a 33.1 percent clip compared to 23.9 percent over his first 385 career games and watching his wRC+ dip from 127 to 104 since the start of 2020.
That’s moderately concerning, no doubt, as is his 3.9 MPH decrease in average exit velocity this season (93.6 in 2020, 89.7 in 2021) which, in turn, sent his expected stats down a sinkhole (.207 xBA, third percentile, MLB; bottom of the barrel).
Though, in the same regard with an eye toward his track record as a major leaguer, Chapman’s upper-crust ceiling is still very much intact. A downturn doesn’t change that. If anything, it would theoretically (and only marginally) lighten the return necessary to secure his services.
And that’s gotta be intriguing from the Mets’ standpoint.
Chapman, entering his second arbitration year, won’t be a free agent until after the 2023 season and is expected to earn close to $10 million this season. A modest investment, at best.
What it might cost to pry away that level of potential and fan recognizability is anyone’s guess. The prospect cost would be dear, no doubt. But if the Mets have a surplus of anything, it’s third basemen. Maybe Mark Vientos gets it done? We’d be remiss to part with Brett Baty in a deal like this, but toss Bassitt in and maybe we can make something work.
As evidenced by Oakland’s unceremonious and uncompensated jettisoning of Melvin, the organization is clearly motivated to cut costs.
To what extent? Who knows. But there’s only one way to find out.
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