Yankees could shake things up at 3rd base with a surprise free-agent signing

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, matt chapman, yankees, mets
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Yankees upper management has communicated that their off-season strategy will proceed as initially planned, with openness to further additions to the team.

The Yankees have been linked to several high-profile players, including pitcher Blake Snell and bullpen arm Hector Neris. Despite these connections, no agreements have been finalized, with Snell seeking a contract exceeding $200 million and Neris, nearing 35, representing a seasoned option for bullpen reinforcement.

Potential Infield Adjustments: Interest in Matt Chapman

General Manager Brian Cashman may shift his focus from pitching to the infield, considering a possible move at third base. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Yankees have shown interest in free agent Matt Chapman, although there has been no official confirmation of this interest.

Now 30, Chapman is entering the market after a mixed season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Starting strong in 2023, his performance declined as the season progressed, ending with a .240/.330/.424 batting line, including 17 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Despite this, Chapman has consistently been an above-average hitter and is known for his exceptional defensive skills at third base. Last season, he tallied 12 defensive runs saved and a .968 fielding percentage, underscoring his defensive prowess.

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Analyzing Chapman’s Fit with the Yankees

However, acquiring Chapman could lead to changes in the Yankees’ current infield setup. At 35, DJ LeMahieu experienced a fluctuating season but improved after the All-Star break, coinciding with a change in hitting coaches. Despite this, the Yankees have once again revised their coaching staff this off-season.

While there isn’t an urgent need for Chapman, given LeMahieu’s solid defensive performance at third base last year, his acquisition could alter the dynamics for younger players like Oswald Peraza. LeMahieu’s permanent shift to third base would potentially relegate Peraza to a utility role, offering him regular playing time without the pressure of immediate offensive success.

Bringing Chapman into the fold could sideline Peraza, but the Yankees seem inclined to give their promising young player with Gold Glove potential an opportunity to establish himself in the 2024 season. This decision reflects a balance between fostering emerging talent and the potential benefits of acquiring an established player like Chapman.