The Kids are up, The Vibes are immaculate. And Yankees fans are reacting the only way they know how: trying to shove Cody Bellinger at $25M/year onto the roster for an undetermined length of time.
Believe it or not, the free-swinging Bellinger -- who broke in Los Angeles and could break again -- would not even be the worst possible massive lineup addition this suddenly intriguing team could make this offseason.
Luckily, even the most hardened Yankee skeptic is probably encouraged enough by the performance of Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells and Co. that this might be the first offseason on record where Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman largely standing pat in free agency won't be met with loud cries that they "don't care" and have "given up."
The only free agent we've regularly seen penciled into pie-in-the-sky hypotheticals is Bellinger, though due to DJ LeMahieu's subpar first half and Oswald Peraza's ride on the Scranton Express, we have seen a few mentions of Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman in the "ideal" 2024 lineup. That would be ... a bad idea on a long-term deal, to say the least.
Yankees cannot sign Matt Chapman in free agency
For starters, the Yankees' "elephant in the room" (their aging starters secured well beyond 2023) doesn't look like quite as much of an anchor as it seemed in July and August. Anthony Rizzo's 2024 is a complete mystery and Giancarlo Stanton will likely continue to veer toward DFA territory when his contract cheapens, but having LeMahieu at third no longer seems like an "Abandon Ship!" catastrophe under Sean Casey. The sample size of LeMahieu's competency only increases as the second half marches on; in 38 games, he's hitting .283 with 7 homers, a .389 OBP and an .867 OPS that's dragged his full-season OPS+ all the way up 96. Roughly average! Alright! Somehow, he's only driven in 10 runs with those 7 dingers, which is a hilarious stat, but outside of that, it's been Vintage LeMahieu since Dillon Lawson left the building.
Chapman, on the other hand? He's been pratfalling offensively, hitting just .221 with a .676 OPS in the second half. His season OPS of .769 has mostly been propped up by his patently absurd April, where he hit .384 with an 1.152 OPS -- but never, ever, ever pay a free agent off a hot streak. Since then, he's only had one calendar month over .205 (July, .247 with a .908 OPS in a month truncated by the All-Star break). Chapman's a middle-of-the-road player offensively, though Savant will note that he's been barreling balls at a remarkable rate this season (while also swinging and missing far too often for a guy without 40-homer pop).
He's a 4.0-bWAR player this season on the verge of 31 who accrued most of those Wins via his elite defense. He struggles against righties (.231 with a .782 OPS this season, the antithesis of what the Yankees need). He's likely to slow down and lose lateral quickness over the course of the six-year deal someone's about to offer him. His best traits are receding. He's a good sixth option in a lineup ... but why do the Yankees need that?
If you read the previous paragraph and thought I was describing Harrison Bader, someone who loved being a Yankee and also someone the Yankees won't pay, why would you go similarly overboard (and pay more) for Chapman?