Trading For Matt Chapman Should Be Among Shortstop Options For The New York Yankees

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Since MLB instituted a lockout on December 2, there has been no public communication from Major League Baseball regarding the status of negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between players and owners. 

The last agreement expired December 1, 2021.

With spring training scheduled to begin in February, MLB remains in a state of uncertainty as the new calendar year begins.

MLB teams are still planning for the new season and creating internal scenarios for roster building transactions following the end to the lockout.

One team with questions remaining is the New York Yankees.

Among other areas, the Yankees are likely seeking to upgrade their shortstop position.

Gleyber Torres:

Right-handed hitting Gleyber Torres started 104 games at shortstop for the Yankees last season. He made 18 errors in 915.2 innings at the position.

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In September, with 19 games left in the regular season, Torres was moved to second base. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu was switched to third base, and third baseman Gio Urshela moved to Torres’ shortstop role.

Torres’ performance at shortstop might best be described as “inconsistent” by this scout. There are games watched when Torres looked confident and capable. There were others when he was a liability. 

Signed as an international free-agent out of Venezuela in 2013 by the Chicago Cubs, Torres received a $1.7M signing bonus. 

In 2014, at the age of 17, Torres played for the Cubs Rookie League and Short-Season Class A teams. He hit a collective .297/.386/.440/.826 with two home runs and 33 RBIs.

At the time, the teenaged Torres exhibited soft hands, good movements and a strong arm as a potential major league shortstop. 

However, at the time this scout first saw Torres in the 2016 Arizona Fall League, he profiled better as a second baseman. He was named the MVP of the league, hitting .403 in 76 plate appearances.

To this observer, his bat was more promising than his defense. Among other factors, this writer’s scouting notes at the time indicated-“Advanced hitting approach, power potential, patient at the plate and willing to take a walk. Gap hitter. Average base runner. Looks more comfortable with less defensive pressure at second base. Grade: 55.”

A Grade 55 is a better than average major league quality player, not likely to be platooned.

On July 25, 2016 Torres was traded by the Cubs to the New York Yankees, along with outfielders Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney and pitcher Adam Warren for flame-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman. It was with the Yankees that Torres turned in his fabulous Fall League season.

Torres was an All Star in both 2018 and 2019. It is important to note that in both games, Torres appeared as a reserve, and he played second base both times.

Fast forward to this offseason, and unless he is traded, Torres is likely to start the season at second base. Torres can hit. And he can hit with power. His offense is a plus for a middle-infielder.

To this writer, the Yankees would do well to evaluate several potential player options at shortstop. They include the following:

Gio Urshela-Bats: Right-Age 30

Urshela was signed by the Cleveland Indians as an international free-agent out of Colombia.

He was always viewed as a very capable defensive third baseman, but he was blocked at the position in Cleveland. He was traded to Toronto in 2018 for cash, and then traded to the Yankees that same year.

An 2019 injury to Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar opened a door at third base for Urshela. Urshela remained in that role until he moved to shortstop late last season.

Not only did Urshela shine defensively at third base, he showed he can hit. And he has hit with power. All he needed was a chance at regular play.

This past season, Urshela hit 14 homers and drove in 49 runs, while hitting .267. His batting average was down from his previous two years, but at the age of 30, he still has some pop in his bat. His dependable defense projects him to be a solid Yankees shortstop.

Carlos Correa-Bats: Right-Age 27 (free-agent)

Young to be a free-agent, two-time All Star Carlos Correa is in the prime of his career.

Sidelined by back issues for the past couple of season, there is injury risk as well as a hefty financial price to obtain the former Houston Astros two-time All Star shortstop.

Coming off a more healthy season when he hit .279 with a career best 26 home runs, Correa drove in 92 runs for the Astros. The team offered him a qualifying offer worth $18.4M, which he turned down. According to NBCSports.com, Correa also rejected an Astros contract worth $120M. Reports also indicated Correa turned down a 10-year, $275M from the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers then signed Javier Baez as their shortstop.

The Yankees are likely discussing Correa, but the history of back injuries and his contract demands may send them looking elsewhere.

The Yankees may also be discussing free-agent Trevor Story. But for this observer, Story is not among the best options for New York.

Matt Chapman-Bats: Right-Age 28 (Oakland Athletics)

Right-handed hitting Matt Chapman is a three-time Gold Glove winner at third base for the Oakland Athletics. He is among the best defensive infielders in the game. 

Chapman was an All Star in 2019 with Oakland.

Chapman has the range, the agility and the strong arm to continue to play defense at an elite level. To this scout’s thinking, Chapman could be a much better than average shortstop. He’s just that good with a glove on his hand.

Not only is Chapman a marvelous third baseman, he is coming off year in Oakland where he hit .210/.314/.403./.716 with 27 home runs and 72 RBIs.

While his batting average was the lowest of his five years in the big leagues, Chapman’s 27 home runs would be a plus for New York.

The Athletics are said to be “shopping” a number of their better players, including both Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson.

A left-handed hitter, Olson would be a tremendous upgrade for the Yankees at first base. He would also fit perfectly at Yankee Stadium, with the short right field porch that is ideal for his swing.

If the Yankees could manage to obtain Matt Chapman from Oakland in a deal for young prospects under team control, it would be significant move. They could move Urshela to short, play Chapman at third, Torres at second and LeMahieu at first.

If the Yankees could somehow pry both Chapman and Olson from Oakland, it would likely require the team to empty their farm system of their best prospects. However, a combination of Chapman and Olson in trade may well be worth the high prospect price.

Conclusions:

Gleyber Torres may not provide the New York Yankees with the consistent quality of defense they desire from their shortstop. In essence, if he remains with the team, Torres may be best suited to play second base.

For this scout, playing Gio Urshela at shortstop makes great sense. He’s a fine defender and he can hit.

One shortstop option may be free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa. However, his barking back and his asking price for a lengthy contract may lead the Yankees elsewhere.

Free-agent shortstop Trevor Story is also still available, but this writer doesn’t view Story as the type of shortstop that will upgrade the Yankees. He may, however, fit well at second base if they choose to offer him a contract. Solving the shortstop position with Story may be less viable.

Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman may make an ideal shortstop for New York. A good hitter with power, Chapman is an incredibly good defensive infielder. He would likely be able to make a smooth transition to third base.