Friday, April 19, 2024
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J.D. Davis trade landing spots: Five teams who could use veteran third baseman after Giants sign Matt Chapman

On Sunday morning, the San Francisco Giants officially signed standout third baseman Matt Chapman on a team-friendly three-year, $54 million contract that includes two opt outs. The deal will pay him $20 million in 2024, $18 million in 2025, and $16 million in 2026. Chapman reunites with president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Bob Melvin. The three were together with the Oakland Athletics years ago.

Chapman and the recently signed Jorge Soler give San Francisco two much-needed power bats, even if they are flawed players (Chapman strikes out a lot, Soler’s defense is poor). The Chapman signing also gives the Giants more right-handed hitting third basemen than any team could possibly need. They now have Chapman, J.D. Davis, Wilmer Flores, and Casey Schmitt. Davis, Chapman’s former college teammate, said the signing caught him off-guard.

“Definitely surprising. I don’t really have much to say because I haven’t spoken to Farhan and I don’t know what the game plan is, so I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth and say something I haven’t had any discussions about. But it is surprising,” Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle. “… I didn’t get a phone call. Brandon Crawford didn’t get a phone call (after the Giants agreed to terms with Carlos Correa last offseason). It is what it is. It’s part of the business. I know every management is different in how they handle things and that’s just one of the characteristics you just have to live with.”

The Giants could keep everyone. Davis and Flores could move to the bench and serve as platoon options/depth pieces, and Schmitt can be optioned to Triple-A. More likely though, the Giants will trade someone, with Davis as the obvious candidate. He’ll make $6.9 million in 2024, his final year of team control. Flores is cheaper, a better hitter, and slightly more versatile because he can fake second base if needed. Odds are Davis will be wearing a new uniform come Opening Day.

Davis, 30, is coming off a .248/.325/.413 line with 18 home runs in 2023. His defense at third base rated well — five outs above average — though that is an outlier compared to the rest of his career. Davis has rated poorly at the hot corner throughout his career. It’s possible he turned a corner with the glove in 2023, sure, though it’s more likely it’s just an outlier season. Still, a team can put Davis at third, and he has experience at first base and in left field too.

Here are five teams that could — should, really — pursue a trade for Davis now that the Chapman signing has made him expendable to the Giants.

Milwaukee Brewers

Their third base position is wide open, so much so that outfielder Sal Frelick has seen action at the hot corner this spring. The downside is Davis would stand in the way of Joey Ortiz, who came over in the Corbin Burnes trade and is ready to play every day in the big leagues. Perhaps there is a Davis plus stuff for Willy Adames trade to be made? That “plus stuff” would have to be fairly significant, but such a trade would give the Giants a much-needed shortstop while giving the Brewers an upgrade at third base and Ortiz a clear path to take over at short (plus whatever that “plus stuff” turns out to be).

New York Yankees

The Yankees have an aging DJ LeMahieu and an unproven Oswald Peraza at third base, and Anthony Rizzo is coming back from a concussion at first base (he has a history of back trouble too). New York reportedly pursued Enrique Hernández before he re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, which tells us they’re trying to upgrade their bench. Davis would give the Yankees added depth at both infield corners, and protection at third base in the event LeMahieu and Peraza can’t hack it.

San Diego Padres

Manny Machado is recovering from October elbow surgery, and although he’s been cleared to hit and is DHing in spring games, he is being brought along slowly on the defensive side. At the moment, Matthew Batten is in line to start at third base until Machado is a full go. Davis could fill in at third base until Machado is cleared, then provide depth at first base and DH, two positions where San Diego is lacking. Trades within the division are tricky, but Davis would help the Padres in a number of ways.

Seattle Mariners

Right now the plan calls for a Josh Rojas/Luis Urías platoon at third base, and that’s one of those things that sounds like it might work in February and makes you wonder what in the world the team was thinking come May. If nothing else, Davis would be an upgrade over Urías on the short side of a third base platoon, and more likely he would be Seattle’s best option at the position on a full-time basis. One issue: GM Jerry Dipoto worked hard to reduce strikeouts this offseason and Davis is prone to swinging and missing. He doesn’t fit their preferred offensive style.

Toronto Blue Jays

Once Chapman became open to a short-term deal, it’s surprising the Blue Jays didn’t find a way to bring him back. Now they’ll roll with Isiah Kiner-Falefa — Chapman will make only $12.5 million more than Kiner-Falefa in 2023 — at the hot corner, where he’s stretched as an everyday player. Replacing Chapman with the guy Chapman displaced in San Francisco would be bad optics, but the Blue Jays can’t worry about that. They just need to focus on improving the team. Davis would be an upgrade at the hot corner and push Kiner-Falefa into the utility role where he fits best.

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