Matt Chapman’s deal with SF Giants helped Reds dodge bullet in division race

That was close.

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman (26) celebrates
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman (26) celebrates / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Chapman will not be coming to the NL Central. The free agent third baseman agreed to a three-year, $54 million contract with the San Francisco Giants late on Friday night. Chapman's deal will pay him $20 million during the upcoming season and allows him to opt out after both the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

There had been whispers throughout the offseason that Chapman was on the Chicago Cubs' radar. After coming to terms to Cody Bellinger on a three-year, $80 million contract, it was assumed that the Cubbies could also be in the market for Chapman and greatly increase theit chances to win the NL Central in 2024.

That's no longer a concern, and the Cincinnati Reds are still sitting pretty in the NL Central. After winning 82 games a year ago, Cincinnati is looking to win the division title for the first time since 2012.

Matt Chapman’s deal with SF Giants helped Reds dodge bullet in division race

Chicago has made very few improvements over last year's team. In fact, one could argue that the Cubs roster is even worse than it was a year ago. Bellinger was already part of last year's team that finished just a game ahead of the Reds in the standings.

The Cubs allowed Marcus Stroman to walk this offseason and replaced him with Shōta Imanaga. The left-hander from Japan may be a solid addition to the Cubs' rotation, but is he an upgrade over Stroman? After losing Chapman to San Fran, Chicago will look to either Nick Madrigal or Christopher Morel to occupy the hot corner in 2024.

The Reds, meanwhile, added Frankie Montas, Nick Martinez, Emilio Pagán, Brent Suter, and Jeimer Candelario this offseason. Those additions, plus the continued development of Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Noelvi Marte, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand are expected to lead the Reds to new heights in 2024.

The NL Central is relatively balanced heading into the upcoming season. The St. Louis Cardinals added a Cy Young finalist to their starting rotation after a losing season in 2023. The Pittsburgh Pirates, while expected to finish in last place, have more talent than most observers give them credit for. And the Milwaukee Brewers, despite having traded Corbin Burnes, are still a threat in the division.

The Cubs missing out on Matt Chapman will definitely keep the playing field even heading into the 2024 season. Two of the 'Boras Four' remain on the open market, but no one in the NL Central has been linked to Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery.

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