Matt Chapman Joins Giants, Owen Caissie Making Loud Noise with Quieter Swing, Gerrit Cole Dislikes Large Adult Sons

The biggest news of the week came when Matt Chapman became the latest Scott Boras client to agree to a deal well below initial projections, as he reportedly joined the Giants for three years and $54 million. Like Cody Bellinger, Chapman can opt out after either of the first two years. What’s really wild here is that both players combined are guaranteed less than many projections had Chapman alone getting.

A lot of Cubs fans had been holding out hope that the third baseman would find his way to the North Side, particularly with his price falling to these levels, but that didn’t feel entirely realistic. The Cubs seem content to move forward with Christopher Morel and a cast of roughly a dozen other options, plus Chapman is far less likely to leave early than Bellinger.

Not only is Chapman about to turn 31, but he’s also coming off of a down year in the power department. Then you factor in next year’s free agent class, which is both deeper and presumably fraught with less peril over broadcast rights than this one. The new Giant is going to need a significant bounceback season in the Bay Area if he wants to earn more than $54 million over the next few seasons.

That’s entirely possible, however, as Chapman and Bellinger present a very interesting study in contrasts when it comes to their results last season. Bellinger’s box score numbers were among the best of his career, though his batted-ball data had many seeing red flags. Chapman had some of the best numbers in the league when it came to hitting the ball hard, he just didn’t have the results to show for it and also swung and missed and lot more than his counterpart.

I won’t go so far as to say the Cubs were never in the market for Chapman because I believe they were checking in prior to signing Bellinger, but it sounds like they’re done with most of their shopping. Craig Counsell noted recently that the DH spot will likely be handled by a group of players currently in camp, and we’ve already noted the third base situation. First base should go to Michael Busch, with some others filling in or platooning, so they’re pretty much set.

Unless, of course, the front office can be opportunistic. One such possibility may have just become a little more realistic as Chapman’s addition could make J.D. Davis more expendable in San Francisco. Exactly one day younger than Chapman, Davis is only under contract for this coming season at a nice $6.9 million after he won his arbitration case in February. A right-handed batter, he has spent most of his time at third base with nearly 300 career innings at first and close to 700 in left.

While the defensive metrics don’t love Davis at the hot corner — his -11 DRS mark was the worst among 27 third basemen with at least 500 innings played last season — he’d be a less volatile Patrick Wisdom. Davis projects to slash around .250/.335/.410 with maybe 15 homers, so basically 40 points higher on the first two and 40 points fewer on the third than P-Wizzy. Their walk rates should be the same and Davis should strike out a lot less, though he’s no stranger to whiffs.

If the Cubs were interested in something like this, it’d be because they see raising the floor as being more important than lowering the ceiling at that particular roster spot. That probably only happens if their confidence in either of the younger players at the corners is still a little shaky as camp goes on since Wisdom’s power offers more upside and his flaws can be more easily mitigated with targeted deployment. He’s also much cheaper, relatively speaking.

Maybe not a particularly likely topic to follow, but maybe we put a pin in it just in case. As for guys who are already in camp and showing some power…

Owen Caissie is making loud noises with a quieter swing that sees him starting his hands much lower to reduce early movement and perhaps give him a more direct bat bath with less loop. He isn’t a big strider and thus didn’t get into even more trouble than he might have otherwise, which is really saying something when his strikeout rate in the minors has been around 30% over three seasons.

Hitters who start the hands early can run into issues with getting them out ahead of their hips and using gravity to help generate bat speed. That might not be an issue at lower levels when velocity and command aren’t very prevalent, but it’ll be exploited badly at a certain point. Though spring training results can hardly be taken as gospel, Caissie has seven hits and three walks to just two strikeouts through six Cactus League contests.

He should open the season at Triple-A Iowa after slashing .289/.398/.519 with 22 homers and a 144 wRC+ with Tennessee last year, putting him right on Chicago’s doorstep. It’s entirely possible that an injury opens the door early, but Caissie will be a late-season call-up if he continues along his current trajectory and the team can create a 40-man spot.

Few players are more familiar with the trajectory of slugging Cubs, or former Cubs, than the man currently serving as the Yankees’ ace.

Gerrit Cole watched helplessly as Kyle Schwarber put a ball into orbit back in 2015 and he may have experienced a little PTSD as Daniel Vogelbach did something similar Friday night. Still considered an adopted large adult son by many Cubs fans, Vogelbach — who played with Schwarber in the Cubs system back in 2014 — admired his tank and then trotted around the bases at a pace that didn’t sit well with the reigning Cy Young winner.

“What’s the day?” Cole asked rhetorically when his outing was over. “Are we still in February? March 1?… I don’t forget a lot of things.”

He was smiling when he uttered those last words, but it’s still kind of funny that he was upset about a husky fella like Vogelbach not having more pep in his step. Chances are better than good that Cole gets the better of his division rival more often than not in the future, so this is really about him creating a little internal bulletin board material. Still, it’s fun to see him taken yard.

The last thing I’ll note here is that baseball fans yearning for something a little more competitive than spring training games should consider an ESPN+ subscription. Though it’s virtually worthless for much of the year, having dozens of college baseball games on throughout the day makes it a bargain.

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