The best defensive players in Major League Baseball were celebrated on Sunday night, as the Rawlings Gold Glove awards were handed out. Two former Oakland Athletics were rewarded for their efforts in 2023.
Matt Chapman took home the honors for best defensive third baseman in the American League. It’s the fourth Gold Glove of Chapman’s career. Long known for his elite defense at the hot corner, Chapman led all AL third basemen with 12 Defensive Runs Saved.
In addition to the excellent defense, Chapman hit .240/.330/.424 with 17 homers and 54 RBI. It was a slightly down year at the plate but it’s tough to imagine that the Blue Jays weren’t happy with the overall performance.
Chapman is currently a free agent heading into 2024. Prior to the 2022 season, he signed a two year contract with Toronto that bought out his final two years of arbitration at $25 million total. He earned $12.5 million in 2023.
He’ll be expected to outpace that number in free agency. Chapman will be entering his age-31 season in 2024. While a mega-deal is unlikely, it’s well within reason to think that Chapman will get north of a nine-figure deal. Jim Bowden of The Athletic predicted ($) six years and $127 million, good for just over $21 million per year. There should be a number of teams bidding for his services.
In addition to Chapman, Texas Rangers catcher Jonah Heim received the honors for the American League. Heim has truly come into his own over the last two years. Like Chapman, Heim led all AL catchers with 6 DRS. He posted a 29% caught-stealing rate, well above the league average of 21%.
Unlike Chapman, Heim took a big step forward at the plate in 2023. He hit a career best .258/.317/.438 with 18 home runs and 95 RBI. Heim came on strong at the end of 2022 and carried that success over into the full 2023 season.
Heim earned his first All-Star selection with his performance this year. He enters his first year of arbitration in 2024, and Cot’s Contracts projects him to earn $4 million. Heim picked the right time to have a breakout season, as arbitration salaries scale upwards based on the player’s year one earnings.
If he continues at his current pace, Heim will quickly cement himself in the conversation with the league’s best catchers. He’ll be 29 next year, so we should have plenty of time left before his decline phase.
Shea Langeliers has some work to do if he wants to join this group next season. In just over 1,000 innings behind the dish, Langeliers posted a -13 DRS, one of the worst figures in the league. Among full time catchers, only the Rockies’ Elias Diaz and the Nationals’ Keibert Ruiz had worse defensive numbers.
Langeliers did throw out 31% of would-be base stealers but he hit just .205 with a .268 on-base percentage and an almost 30% strikeout rate. He did hit for power, finishing with 22 home runs 63 RBI. Langeliers will have a firm hold on the starting catcher job heading into 2024 due to Tyler Soderstrom’s lack of performance in his debut season.