As Giants introduce Matt Chapman, Scott Boras stokes the market for Snell, Montgomery


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants staged Matt Chapman’s introductory news conference on their new patio area down the first base line at Scottsdale Stadium. The backdrop was idyllic: the glistening green field in the foreground as pitchers scurried through fielding drills, the jagged slopes of Camelback Mountain off in the distance. It was a much more scenic backdrop than the corporate banner that magically materializes behind agent Scott Boras when he holds court at the winter meetings.

Chapman did not sign at the winter meetings. He didn’t sign before Christmas or Valentine’s Day or before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. His free agency was like Sunday afternoon gridlock: everyone knew where this was headed; nobody could understand why it was taking so long to get there.

Even before the final out of the World Series was recorded last October, it was baseball’s worst kept secret that the Giants had Chapman’s name circled in almost every permutation of their offseason plans. It was hardly a secret that Chapman viewed the Giants as an ideal landing spot, too: playing for Bob Melvin, a manager he adored, in a region he knew well and for an organization that historically has retained the best players it develops.

Nearly halfway through spring training, the gridlock finally cleared.

“It’s hard to predict what was going to happen, but I knew with BoMel going to San Francisco, it just seemed like it was destiny,” Chapman said.

Chapman passed his physical on Saturday. He participated in workouts on Sunday. But he was instructed to wait to speak publicly until Monday, when Boras could join him in front of the cameras. This is standard procedure for a Boras client. There is always the next narrative to push, the next market to stoke, the next client to sell. And with barely three weeks before most clubs open the season, Boras still must find employment for left-hander Blake Snell, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, and left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who was critical to the Texas Rangers’ winning their first World Series title.

Boras held onto his clients all offseason because the markets for his players were either slow to materialize or they never did. The teams in the most steadfast pursuit of Chapman and Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger never caved. So Chapman and Bellinger pivoted to a three-year contracts ($54 million guaranteed for Chapman, $80 million for Bellinger) that include opt-outs after each of the first two seasons.

Perhaps teams are beginning to assume that Snell and Montgomery will be forced to settle for something similar. But Boras isn’t done selling just yet. His side session with reporters after the news conference began with his usual rhetorical flair.

“There is a pitching panic going on in Major League Baseball,” Boras said. “We’ve got so many starting pitchers that are now compromised. Maybe short term, but some long term. And the calls for elite starters are certainly starting to increase.”

Boras said that amid this perceived panic, four new teams have called to check in on Snell and Montgomery in the past week. At least two clubs changed their thought process as it relates to potential contract structures. And Boras chuckled as he mentioned taking a surprising call from another team that sensed an opportunity to sign one of his free-agent pitchers as the first move in a transactional lattice.

Maybe some GMs are calling because their rotations sustained injuries in camp. Maybe some are calling because they sense a potential bargain opportunity. Boras, you will not be surprised to learn, is pushing the former notion. And among the teams he appeared to be channeling, the Giants arguably have the greatest need in their rotation.

“That’s the great thing about our game,” Boras said. “Owners and general managers get to spring training and all of a sudden, it’s ‘My season is at risk. Everything I’ve built, this maximum expenditure that my ownership has reached, is not going to be executed because I’ve got failures that have occurred physically with the talent that I was relying on.’ So those elements really change how they think with many clubs right now because of the pitching issue. The competitiveness of their seasons are at risk.”

The Giants have taken on more than $335 million in payroll commitments this offseason but their first-half rotation remains in flux behind right-hander Logan Webb. Jordan Hicks and Kyle Harrison are expected to hold down starting spots, but one is converting from relief, the other is a rookie, and neither have a track record of being especially pitch efficient. The questions get even bigger after that as Keaton Winn builds back up from a bout of elbow soreness and Tristan Beck recovers from surgery to repair an aneurysm in his upper arm.

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Beck and Winn are talented pitchers but neither was expected to front the rotation. Other teams like the Baltimore Orioles (Kyle Bradish) and New York Mets (Kodai Senga) are dealing with injuries to higher profile starters. If the Giants’ group of young pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues is as talented as they believe, then it’s hard to describe their situation as a full-scale panic.

The Giants could use their optionable depth to piece games together when needed. They could use days off to juggle their rotation through the end of April so that they need a fifth starter just three times. But it’d be at least another month before Alex Cobb could make a healthy return from hip surgery, and Robbie Ray’s debut isn’t expected to come until after the All-Star break. And given what the Giants have invested in this season, hoping to wing it with the rotation and hang on in the first half doesn’t seem like the soundest strategy.

The Giants might not be as salary-committed as the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, but they just sacrificed a second-round draft pick and $500,000 of their international bonus pool to sign Chapman, a player who might be under their banner for just one season.

Of course, you don’t have to tell Boras any of this. Nor do you have to tell him that signing Snell (or Montgomery) would push the Giants over the initial luxury tax threshold of $237 million.

Boras doesn’t need to hear the argument against treading into the luxury tax. He has his counterargument ready to go.

“The truth is it’s good business,” Boras said. “If you can draw five, six, 700,000 more fans, and you’re going to pay a $7-8 million tax, the revenue stream comes in the form of having a better team, having depth, being truly competitive and being a playoff team. When the audience rewards you for that, it’s not a focus on the CBA or taxes. It’s a focus on good business to create the revenues and fan base to be a market that is as amazing as (the Bay Area).

“San Francisco is an amazing market. It’s one of the top five markets in the game. They draw 3 million people when they have one thing: a very good baseball team.”

So what next? I asked Boras: Does the Giants’ agreement with Chapman make it more or less likely that they also sign Snell?

“Well, I have an unbiased opinion about that,” Boras said with a sarcastic lilt in his voice. “I think Blake Snell’s record in the National League West, in San Francisco, and against the Dodgers … he’s a very dominant talent. Look at what Blake did (in San Diego) with Manny Machado, a Gold Glove defensive third baseman, and correlate that to what he would do with Matt Chapman.”

The Giants usually have an easier time selling themselves as a destination for free-agent pitchers. They’ve historically had to overpay free-agent position players to come to San Francisco — not because of perceptions about the city in recent years, warped as those might be, but because of perceptions that their otherwise perfectly charming ballpark is inhospitable to hitters.

Chapman was a rare premium free agent who was motivated to choose them. He wasn’t put off by the thought of trying to have a platform offensive season in a ballpark that is pitcher-friendly by reputation, even if it plays a little more neutral than players might realize. The 30-year-old Gold Glove third baseman is betting on himself, and if there’s a long-term fit with the Giants, he suggested that he might be able to motivate others to challenge any preconceptions and climb on board.

“I’m from California, I played in the Bay Area, I’m comfortable here,” said Chapman, who won three of his four Gold Gloves while playing for the A’s from 2017-21. “People say what they say but at the end of the day, when you look at the (Giants), they want to win. They’ve won before. They know how to do it. They have great players, great coaches. So I don’t see why people wouldn’t want to come here. A lot of people have reached out and said they want to come play here and told me that. So if that’s a narrative, I think that’s going to change.

“Obviously, I’d love to be here long term. That’s something that I can see for myself. I would definitely bring players in any way I could to make this team as competitive as possible.”

Chapman can start by to stabilizing the left side of the infield and reestablishing himself as a run producer. He said the sprained finger that he played through for four months is no longer an issue. He didn’t even feel the new-team jitters when he walked into the Giants clubhouse on Saturday.

“Since I’ve been here, I feel super comfortable,” Chapman said. “Going through the bunt defenses, going through all the drills … I got to do it for seven years (with Melvin). So it’s just like riding a bike. But for me, it’s unfinished business because we felt like we had something really special building with the A’s and unfortunately that got kind of ripped out of our hands and broken up.

“So getting to come back here and have an opportunity to be in an organization like the Giants, a team that’s not afraid to spend and get free agents and keep guys together and keep adding — all the all the things that you expect a winning franchise to do — I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of that. I’m just extremely blessed and excited to start this new journey.”

The Giants clubhouse abounded with businesslike optimism under Melvin when the Giants opened their spring camp last month, but a sense of uncertainty lingered in the air. Everyone figured at least one more move was coming. Those assumptions won’t end even after the Chapman contract finally dropped. If the Giants and Boras are able to do business one more time, then the shoes will come in pairs.

(Photo of Chapman and Boras at Monday’s press conference: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)





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