Chapman gives Giants another everyday starter as roster moves loom

Chapman gives Giants another everyday starter as roster moves loom originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

When Farhan Zaidi said early in camp that the Giants likely were done making big moves, there were two ways to take it. Some viewed it as further proof that heads need to roll, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines and see that the president of baseball operations was sending a not-so-subtle message to agent Scott Boras and his clients that prices still remained unrealistic in this market.

While there wasn't a lot of validity to "any further additions (are) unlikely," Zaidi did say something else that day that still holds up, even after the Matt Chapman agreement.

"It gets kinda harder, not just operationally to add people, but you feel some level of commitment and obligation to the guys who are here competing for jobs," Zaidi said a few hours before the first full-squad workout. "It's a little bit more disruptive to add at this point and anybody who is a free agent, we've theoretically had 3 1/2 months to figure out a deal and if it hasn't happened yet, at some point organizationally you just need to turn the page and focus on the players you have in-house."

Zaidi has talked publicly in recent months about how MLB needs to make changes to an offseason structure that led to sporadic activity and four of the best free agents being unsigned when camps started last month. While most within the industry -- and many within the organization -- expected a Chapman deal to ultimately come together, the delay in reaching terms meant the Giants started camp with uncertainty.

There's even more of that for some now that Chapman has agreed to terms.

The immediate impact will be felt most by J.D. Davis, who was a revelation early last season, ably stepping in when David Villar couldn't hold the third base job. Davis, ironically, made a pretty strong impression of his former Cal State Fullerton teammate.

Davis posted a .738 OPS with 18 homers. Chapman was at .755 and 17. Davis took tremendous strides defensively last season and actually edged Chapman in Outs Above Average, although Chapman had a huge edge in Defensive Runs Saved, and there's no question the four-time Gold Glove Award winner will give the Giants an upgrade defensively at a time when they have a groundball-seeking pitching staff.

When the price for Chapman was more than twice the $54 million deal he ultimately agreed to, the upgrade from existing options didn't feel worth it to the Giants. But they ended up getting Chapman on a modest (by free agency standards) three-year deal. That leaves Davis without a home on the dirt, and he noted to reporters in Scottsdale on Saturday morning that a trade could be coming.

Davis also has started games at first base, left field and designated hitter in his career, but there are no clear roads there. The Giants already might have a hard enough time finding outfield reps for emerging 22-year-old Luis Matos, and Wilmer Flores and LaMonte Wade Jr. will form a platoon at first. The Jorge Soler signing closed off opportunities at DH, including to Flores, who was the team's best hitter last season but no longer has a path to much playing time at third base, either.

The other blocked player finds himself in an interesting spot. Scouts have long compared Casey Schmitt to Chapman, and the Giants could have opted to just hope that the younger version sticks long-term, but Schmitt now will need to find other avenues to a breakout. For the second-year player, that should be much less complicated than for others.

Schmitt started the spring by mostly taking his grounders at shortstop, and it's not out of the question that he emerges as the best option there at some point. He also started 15 games at second base last year and certainly has the skill set to become a solid to above-average defender at three spots.

With Chapman now in the fold, the Giants will need some of that versatility. Davis would be a very valuable weapon off the bench, but the roster already has too many players with defensive limitations. The front office would like to find a way to carry speedy and versatile infielder/center fielder Tyler Fitzgerald on the Opening Day roster, and the Giants will want to leave room for players like Matos who might be ready for an extended look.

A trade seems likely before the end of the spring, and making one quickly could open up the payroll at a time when the Giants are bumping up against the first tax threshold and have a clear need for another starting pitcher.

Part of the appeal with Chapman was the fact that he is an everyday player, with at least 140 appearances in each of the last five full MLB seasons and 155-plus in two of them. Zaidi built his rosters a different way for five years, but he acknowledged after the 2023 season that the Giants need more stability. Bob Melvin has been pushing that all spring. Early in camp, Melvin named Jung Hoo Lee his everyday leadoff hitter and said he expects Soler to be in the cleanup spot.

Chapman should have a similar role somewhere in the heart of the lineup and the Giants will be better for it. But now they have to figure out how the rest of the puzzle will fit together.

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