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Matt Chapman or Willy Adames or both?

Is Adames a trade target? Is a Chapman deal imminent?

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics
Both players have a “two teams ago” photo in the photo tool — but also, it’s their only photo together
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Baltimore Orioles traded for 2021 NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that looked like it would at least start the year competing hard in the NL Central. What does this mean for the San Francisco Giants?

The Brewers traded away an ace in the final year of team control. Their current shortstop, Willy Adames, is in the final year of team control and back in January agreed to a 1-year, $12.25 million deal. The Giants have been on the lookout for a backup infield option to support Marco Luciano, a player who might be asked to save the lineup in 2024 — well, what if they just traded for a plus-plus defender who could hit 20+ home runs and let Luciano develop with a little less pressure?

Then there’s the matter of Matt Chapman, who’s felt fait accompli since the start of the offseason. We’ve all assumed that the reason he hasn’t signed is because his agent Scott Boras is holding out for the best possible deal and all suitors are probably offering similar deals. Could the Giants pivot to Adames? Is Adames even available? Could the Giants trade for Adames and sign Chapman? Let’s take a look at the options.

I want to start with a quick and dirty comparison of the two players. Defensively, there’s a lot more similarity than I realized. Just going by FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average and looking solely at last season:

Chapman: +5.7
Adames: +17.7

And if you factor in the last three seasons:

Chapman: +26.4
Adames: +32.1

Over the past three seasons, both players have been top 10 at their respective positions

And as you can see from these images, they’re separted by about half a win over the past three years combined. Both guys are high strikeout guys with pop, but Chapman is able to get on base more and has been a bit more consistent, staying league average or better over the past three while Adames dipped below league average in 2023 as part of a three-year decline (thanks to @giantsprospects for pointing this out).

But Adames will play most of the season at 28 (turns 29 on September 2), while Chapman will play most of the season at 31 (which he’ll turn on April 28). Is a continued decline assured for Adames and is a post-30 collapse for Chapman imminent? These are both good questions to ask, but if the ultimate year-to-year value for both is glove & power, then the Giants should be hounding the Brewers to see what it would take to get him — but they’re much smarter than any of us and they’ve almost certainly pursued this option.

We won’t know if Adames is available until Jeff Passan drops the details of the deal, but if the Brewers were to shop him around, we could probably envision a situation where the Giants would have to give up 2-3 players, since they can’t offer a competitive balance round draft pick like the Orioles could. Adames was worth 3.4 fWAR last season, so I’m going to do a very rough analysis of what a trade might look like based on the deal the Cubs made for Jeimer Candelario (3.3 fWAR) at the 2023 trade deadline.

The Nationals traded away Candelario and got back two top 20 prospects from the Cubs: infielder Kevin Made (#14) and pitcher DJ Herz (#16). Per’s writeup of the transaction:

Made, 20, was playing for High-A South Bend, for whom he was slashing .240/.328/.355 with a .683 OPS in 70 games. He has been noted for his arm and advanced bat-to-ball skills. Made signed with the Cubs for $1.5 million in 2019 out of the Dominican Republic, and he was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 11 player in that international signing class.

Herz, 22, went 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in 14 starts with Double-A Tennessee this season. In his past two starts, he has held opponents to a .065 batting average with an 0.90 ERA. Herz is lauded for his curveball, and his fastball reaches 96 mph. An eighth-round pick of the Cubs in 2019, he was named Chicago’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in ‘21 by MLB Pipeline.

It’s folly to glance at the Giants’ Pipeline list and just assign based on rankings — because who knows how other organizations value the Giants’ prospects or how Adames’ excellence at shortstop alters the comp to Candelario, who excels at hitting but not at fielding — but I’m doing it anyway! That’s Keaton Winn and Diego Velasquez, right? Seems light for Adames even though he’s in the final year of his deal. He could shift over to third base for other teams! Perhaps even teams who are or were in on Matt Chapman! Anyway, I’m doing this analysis just to rile up readers so they do their own analysis and politely disagree with others in the comments below.

Of course, there is one final option — or rather, possibility: the Giants get neither. Maybe Chapman goes back to the Blue Jays. Maybe somebody else gets Adames or the Brewers hold on to him. There are no rumors about Adames being moved, but Joey Ortiz, one of the players the Brewers received last night in exchange for Burnes, is a 25-year old shortstop who’s slugged .449 in the minors (1,373 PA across 4 seasons) and .507 at Triple-A last season. So.

As speculative as this post has been, I’m going to make it worse by suggesting the Giants could trade for Adames and sign Matt Chapman. That’s ultimately the best series of moves from the armchair blogger perspective. But the downsides are obvious:

  • It’d cost the Giants a lot in prospect capital (whoever they traded plus losing a pick for signing Chapman)
  • Pricey. Chapman & Adames would be an extra $35 million added to a payroll that is trying to stay well below $200 million
  • It’s good for one year only. Even if we discount the possibility that Matt Chapman could pull an Evan Longoria on the Giants and turn to ash the instant he starts his age-31 season, Willy Adames wouldn’t be sticking around (he’s repped by CAA). So, it’d be a move for 2024, and you have to wonder if the Giants think fielding the best possible team — if they could even fit Adames + Chapman under their self-imposed budget — makes sense, given the superior competition across the league.

BUT! the pair would make you feel a lot better about the pitching development and take some pressure off of Luciano and Casey Schmitt this season and give those two a better shot at developing at a steady pace; but at the end of the day, both Adames and Chapman have such similar value that the team would be advised to get one or both.