MESA, Ariz. -- Matt Chapman would love for the sole focus of this Spring Training to revolve around preparing for his upcoming season with the A’s. The truth of the matter is, his future with the club isn’t exactly clear.
Over the past few days, Chapman and a handful of his teammates have been the subject of trade rumors. Some of that speculation turned into reality on Saturday, when Chris Bassitt, another A’s player whose name had been floated around, was traded to the Mets for a pair of pitching prospects.
For Chapman and other A’s who continue to see their names come up in trade rumors, such as Matt Olson, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas -- all of whom are key players who have helped lead Oakland to the playoffs in three of the past four seasons -- Saturday’s trade provided a reminder of how quickly a player’s situation can change.
“This is definitely new,” Chapman said of the trade rumors. “This is the first time that my name has been really thrown around in trades. Oly, obviously Bassitt yesterday. Manaea and Montas, it seems like you see those four names thrown around quite a bit.”
“It’s one of those things where you know it’s going to happen eventually. Not everybody stays an A for life. For us, no matter what team any of us are on, Opening Day is April 8. I need to get myself prepared. But as long as we’re wearing these colors, we’re expecting to win.”
Particularly over the past decade, the A’s have operated in three- or four-year cycles, alternating between postseason contention and rebuilding phases. A stretch of three consecutive playoff appearances from 2012-14 was followed by down years from 2015-17. This most recent cycle of contention is going on its fifth year.
With most of Oakland’s top players due for large salary increases through arbitration -- Cot’s Baseball Contracts projects Chapman’s number at $9.85 million for the 2022 season -- those names could get traded as a means of replenishing a farm system that ranked 28th in baseball last season per MLB Pipeline and seeking out prospects that could evolve into the next wave of talent for the A’s.
“I know that obviously they’re listening [to trade offers],” Chapman said. “That’s just kind of the way the cycle goes around here sometimes. I know that they still think that we’re valuable and we have a good team.
“I’m not sure what direction they’re going to go. But no matter what, I’m just gonna try to not focus on that stuff. I have a lot of things I want to accomplish on the field this year, and I need to get myself prepared for that.”
Atop Chapman’s list of things to accomplish is getting back to his old self: the young, budding talent that broke out as an All-Star in 2019 with 36 home runs and 91 RBIs. That version of Chapman has been absent over the past two years. After season-ending hip surgery in 2020 limited him to 37 games, the third baseman underperformed in 2021. Though the power was there with 27 homers, he hit just .210 and set a new A’s franchise record with 202 strikeouts.
Chapman attributed some of the struggles last year to a lack of strength in his lower half that he was unable to regain as the season went along. Working on bulking back up throughout the offseason at Conte Sports Performance in Scottsdale, Ariz., he arrived to A’s camp having put on about 10 pounds, which he said should allow him to hold up with consistent results throughout the year.
“I did what I’m capable of in spurts last year,” Chapman said. “Beginning of the year, I wasn’t able to repeat my swing or feel like I could hold my load in my hip. Now I got that strength back.
“I know what I’m capable of when I’m healthy. I’ve shown it before in this league, and I want to return to what I was doing in ‘18 and ‘19. But a more experienced and healthier version of that, because this is the healthiest I’ve ever felt.”
For now, Chapman enters this Spring Training with the same goal he’s had over the previous four years: Help bring a World Series to Oakland. As for the trade speculation, he has no choice but to deal with it. Whatever happens, he’ll be ready for it.
“That’s what you sign up for when you play this game,” Chapman said. “Something like this could happen at any time. It’s like when you get called up in the Minor Leagues -- drop everything where you’re at and get on a plane. I’ve been through that process before and I’ve got my family and good people around me. No matter what happens, I’ll be prepared.”