If the name Matt Chapman isn't yet familiar to the baseball masses, then it will be soon enough.
Chapman, who mans third base for the Oakland Athletics, has been one of baseball's top performers this season. He entered Monday hitting .333/.403/.650 (200 OPS+) with five home runs across his first 16 games. Combine those numbers with his all-world defense at the corner, and Chapman looks a lot like a budding superstar.
The A's see it, too. As such, Oakland has already reached out to Chapman about signing a long-term extension, less than 400 plate appearances into his big-league career. Chapman's agent, Scott Boras, has thus far rejected those advances, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Here's why: A source told The Chronicle that the team has approached third baseman Matt Chapman's agent, Scott Boras, about beginning talks about a potential multiyear deal but were told that there currently is no interest in such talks.
Boras's reluctance to engage in long-term talks will prevent him from winning over hearts in Oakland, but it's a smart business decision. Chapman won't qualify for free agency until the winter of 2023, and won't become arbitration eligible until after the 2020 season. Heck, he's still weeks away from earning a full year of major league service time. Whenever a player in a position like Chapman's -- that is to say a position where they have almost zero present-day earning potential -- signs an extension, the terms are always highly favorable to the team.
To wit, five players with less than a full season of MLS have signed extensions in the past five years: Chris Archer, Jonathan Singleton, Tim Anderson, Paul DeJong, and Scott Kingery. The biggest guarantee given to any of those five was $26 million (DeJong). Meanwhile, three of the four signed for between $20 and $24 million. Those seem like big figures, but are just a fraction of what top-flight ballplayers can make on the open market. Yes, there's certainly risk involved on the team's side -- see Singleton, who probably won't ever appear in the majors again -- but there's also the chance for huge savings on the team's side when compared to what the player could earn through the arbitration process. Hence teams willingly making the bet.
While it's a smart call on Boras and Chapman's part, and a smart gamble for the A's, it is a bummer for Oakland's fan base. The A's entered the season with a $65 million payroll, their lowest figure since 2013. Because the A's are being weaned off revenue sharing (next year will be their final season) in an attempt to force movement on the stadium front, it seems likely that the franchise will become even more dependent on minimum and low-cost salary players. That means talented players like Chapman and Matt Olson are less likely to stay in town for long.
None of that is Chapman's fault, and he shouldn't be guilted for wanting to maximize his career earnings. Still, it's okay to feel sympathy for A's fans. They can't even enjoy a few weeks of brilliant baseball by their team's best player without worrying about how long he'll be an A.