The other day, we took a look at some trade possibilities that could help the Phillies upgrade at the center field position. Granted, center field has been a stated need for the team while third base has sort of fallen down the list in terms of “need”. Saying that they are going to open the season with Alec Bohm there is a good idea, particularly because Bohm has shown in the minors and during the pandemic-shortened 2020 that he can be a force offensively. Defensively might be something of an adventure at times, but they have dispatched their coaches to work with him this offseason to improve in all facets of the game.
However, what if there was a chance for the team to get better at the hot corner? The Oakland A’s have stated that they are open to dealing some of their higher earning players (let’s just call it what it is - they want to ditch payroll), while the Cleveland Guardians might see that they aren’t close to the Chicago White Sox at the moment and use the time to deal one of their best players before his value drops. Were either of these opportunities to come up, it would behoove the Phillies to look into both situations to see the cost of either Matt Chapman or Jose Ramirez. After all, the drop that Bohm suffered last year with his offense was stark enough that the team is rightfully worried about him. Couple that with their win now mentality and they might look to see if they can get better at that spot.
So, as we did with Bryan Reynolds and Cedric Mullins, let’s see if we can figure out which player would be a better fit for Philadelphia right now.
Chapman: 28 years old (29 on 4/28), bats and throws right-handed
Ramirez: 29 years old (30 on 9/17), switch hitter, throws right-handed
There’s only a year’s difference between the two, Ramirez being a bit older, but it’s not enough that it would be a gulf between the two. Playing third base, you’d want the younger player with the better reaction time, but it’s not as if we are dealing with an older player that needs to move off of the position (we’ll get to defense in a while). The fact that Ramirez is a switch-hitter kind of eliminates any kind of gap in age, so for now, we’ll call it even.
Chapman: .210/.314/.403, 27 HR, 72 RBI, 32.5 K%, 12.9 BB%, 101 wRC+, 6.3 BsR, 3.4 fWAR
Ramirez: .266/.355/.538, 36 HR, 103 RBI, 13.7 K%, 11.3 BB%, 137 wRC+, 2.0 BsR, 6.3 fWAR
It’s pretty clear that if we based evaluations on raw numbers from 2021, Ramirez is the better offensive player. The strikeout rate alone for Chapman is enough to make one pause, but if we move the lens out and focus on the last four years (2018-21), the two players start to come together a bit. Ramirez’s wRC+ is still the same 137 as it was last year, but Chapman’s becomes a more palatable 121.
He’s better than what he showed in 2021, but Chapman still lags Ramirez here.
Keeping our focus on only 2021 and Ramirez beats Chapman in every single category. Broadening our perspective to the 2018-21 timeline and Ramirez still comes out on top in each one. Chapman’s strikeout rate comes down a bit, but Ramirez continues to maintain an almost 50/50 split for his walk and strikeout rates. It makes one have to consider that over the past few seasons, Ramirez has been one of the better offensive players in the game, not just limited to offensive third basemen. This category isn’t really all that close.
Chapman: +17 OAA, 13 runs prevented
Ramirez: +7 OAA, 5 runs prevented
Over the past four seasons (2018-21), Jose Ramirez has been probably the most underrated baseball player in the game. His offense we just discussed, but it’s his defense that has been eye opening. Last year, as you can see above, he was very good, but he’s the third best defensive third baseman over those four years, registering +15 OAA during that span.
He just can’t compare with Chapman.
Chapman has an argument as the best defensive player on the infield regardless of position, himself registering +39 OAA over the past four seasons. He’s second behind Nolan Arenado during that time, but he suffered a shoulder injury in 2020 that robbed him off of his usual defensive excellence. Even still, he bounced back this season to reclaim his status as the best defensive third baseman in the game.
Chapman: $9.5 million (est.) in 2022, free agent after 2023
Ramirez: $11 million in 2022, $13 million club option in 2023, free agent in 2024
At first, I thought this was a slam dunk in favor of Ramirez. After all, we hear all about how valuable his contract is since he was signed to a cheap extension years ago. Then you realize that he has the same amount of years of control as Chapman at what could roughly be the same amount of money over those two years and suddenly the gap isn’t so wide.
Of course, we don’t know what arbitration will look like after the CBA is finished, so Chapman could end up making a lot more money, so for that reason and because Ramirez’s contract is guaranteed, he’ll get the slight edge here.
Look, the Phillies have bigger issues to fix than third base. Alec Bohm wasn’t drafted third overall by mistake. The team saw in him their future at the hot corner and will continue to expend all the necessary resources to make sure he is at his best self.
However, if either the Athletics or Guardians are peddling either of these two talents and the Phillies were interested in discussion, it would make more sense for their team to go after Ramirez than Chapman. He’s been better with the bat, very good with the glove and has a contract situation that shouldn’t be affected by the new CBA (whenever that takes form).
The next question becomes: what would you surrender for either player? You’d have to assume that Bohm himself would lead any deal, but after that, it becomes hard to put together a package for either player. Were they to put one of their top prospects on the table, discussions would get easier, but it’s likely that another team could top that offer.
We’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out.