Chapman hits free agency after declining QO

November 15th, 2023

TORONTO -- declined the Blue Jays' qualifying offer on Tuesday in a move that was widely expected, given Chapman’s standing in a weak position-player market

Chapman will be one of the top hitters available in free agency, even coming off a disappointing year at the plate, due to the top-end defense that just earned him a fourth Gold Glove Award at third base. If Chapman signs elsewhere, the Blue Jays will receive a compensatory Draft pick after the fourth round in 2024.

Chapman got off to a brilliant start at the plate in 2023, batting .384 with a 1.152 OPS through April. During that stretch, it felt like every ball Chapman hit was barreled up and found a gap for extra bases.

Then the rest of the season came. From May 1 on, Chapman hit just .205 with a .659 OPS and wasn’t generating nearly as much power. This leaves Chapman with three consecutive “down” years offensively, batting .226 with a .743 OPS combined in 2021-23, far from the numbers he put up during his breakthrough seasons with the A’s (.255 with an .839 OPS in 422 games from 2017-20).

Now, the Blue Jays will look elsewhere to find the present and future of the hot corner in Toronto.

Toronto will explore the trade market, which is how they landed Chapman prior to the 2022 season, and that market could prove more attractive given the limited options in free agency. Jeimer Candelario is one of the top third basemen available on the open market, which quickly gives way to veteran names such as Evan Longoria and Justin Turner.

The Blue Jays have no shortage of young infielders coming up, which is where this gets more interesting. Davis Schneider was the surprise star of 2023, while MLB Pipeline's No. 2 Blue Jays prospect, Orelvis Martinez, has the power you can dream on. Then there’s No. 5 prospect Addison Barger, who was one of the darlings of camp a season ago, and Ernie Clement, who proved he’s more than organizational depth and deserves a longer look.

Add in Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal, who can both handle third in a pinch, and the Blue Jays have options. Most of those options are more natural at second base, though, making this an even more complicated puzzle. Add No. 6 prospect Leo Jimenez to this infield group, and you’re also looking at the pool of names the Blue Jays could trade from.

Toronto’s need for a left fielder, for example, is so much simpler. That’s a straightforward “hole” the Blue Jays can plug, but their situation at third base could require some creativity going forward without Chapman.