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All-star third baseman Matt Chapman traded to Blue Jays from Athletics

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By John Chidley-Hill in Dunedin

The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten the infield help they have been seeking all off-season.

Matt Chapman was acquired by Toronto in a trade with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, the Blue Jays have confirmed. Shortstop Kevin Smith, right-handed pitcher Gunnar Hoglund, left-handed starter Zach Logue and left-handed reliever Kirby Snead were sent to Oakland in exchange for the all-star third baseman.

Manager Charlie Montoyo said the Blue Jays were excited when news of the trade broke in their clubhouse at the team’s spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla.

“Our defence just got a lot better,” said Montoyo. “He’s one of the best third basemen I’ve ever seen in the big leagues and I’m really happy to have him.

“I’m also happy for the kids that got traded. When you get traded for somebody that that’s good it’s also good for you.”

The 28-year-old Chapman had a .210 batting average and 27 home runs for the Athletics last season while earning his third Gold Glove. He also had a .314 on-base percentage and a .403 slugging percentage last year.

All of Chapman’s 2021 numbers were actually below his 162-game average over five seasons in Oakland. He has averaged 31 homers, while hitting .243 with a .330 OBP and .478 slugging percentage in his career.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said that despite Chapman’s apparent regression at bat last season he is still a well-rounded player who is “extremely durable.”

“Last year we saw him a good bit and when I didn’t want to see him hitting against us, so I still feel like he’s a very viable offensive threat,” said Atkins. “He’s a big time threat on both sides of the ball and that’s hard to find.”

Chapman’s fielding is the real prize for the Blue Jays.

On top of his three Gold Gloves as the best defensive third baseman in the American League, Chapman has won Platinum Gloves as the best defensive player in the AL — regardless of position — in 2018 and 2019.

Montoyo said that adding Chapman’s glove to the left side of the field will help Toronto climb up the AL East standings.

“I mean that’s how you win in the big leagues: pitching and defence,” said Montoyo. “It’s tough to hit all the time so to win you need pitching and defence and we really just got better.”

Santiago Espinal, who will likely share second base with Cavan Biggio this season, said he was eager to learn from Chapman.

“When that trade happened, everybody was happy,” said Espinal, gesturing around the Blue Jays’ expansive clubhouse. “He’s going to be able to help us, especially us young guys.

“He’s already got that Gold Glove and he got a Platinum Glove too, so for us to have him and learn from him I think is a blessing.”

Atkins said that the learning in Toronto’s clubhouse may cut both ways.

“I think Matt will come in extremely open-minded and excited about this. opportunity,” he said. “Excited about tapping into the resources here.”

The trade came a day after Atkins said that adding a new position player was a priority. On Wednesday he said that the Blue Jays, who had been rumoured to be pursuing free agents like Canadian first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Carlos Correa, may not be done yet.

“I can’t imagine trying harder in terms of aggressiveness,” said Atkins, who gestured toward the bags under his eyes. “Maybe you can tell by my eyes that you know it’s around the clock and we’re spending a lot of time and energy on ways to make our team better, if that means in incremental ways or significant ways.”

That said, Atkins isn’t going to rush into anything.

“Nothing that is imminent or about to happen,” said Atkins. “It’s really just thinking about how we can improve on the run-prevention side and on the run-scoring side.”

Atkins said he expected Chapman to report to Blue Jays spring training camp on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2022.

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Toronto Blue Jays clinch post-season berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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The Toronto Blue Jays locked up a playoff spot Thursday afternoon without taking the field, securing a berth when the Boston Red Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

Canada’s lone big-league team got the good news on an off-day ahead of Friday’s series opener against the visiting Red Sox.

With downtime valuable during the stretch drive, the team was expected to celebrate the accomplishment after the series opener against the Red Sox.

It will be Toronto’s first post-season appearance since the truncated 2020 campaign. With six games left to play, the Blue Jays can now turn their focus to playoff positioning.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home.

“So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

If Toronto maintains its grip on the first of three American League wild-card seeds, then the Blue Jays would play at Rogers Centre for the best-of-three first-round series.

The second- and third-seeded wild-card teams would open on the road.

It’s part of a new Major League Baseball playoff format this year. The top two division winners in each league get byes to the division series.

The third-ranked division winner will host the third wild-card seed (No. 6 seed overall) in one wild-card series and the top wild-card entry (No. 4 seed overall) welcomes the second wild-card seed (No. 5 overall) in the other.

Entering play Thursday, Toronto had a 1 1/2-game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays and a two-game cushion on the Seattle Mariners.

The Rays were scheduled to play the Cleveland Guardians on Thursday night and the Mariners were set to entertain the Texas Rangers.

The Yankees have already clinched the East Division title.

Toronto was swept by the Rays in the wild-card series in 2020. It was the Blue Jays’ first playoff appearance since 2016.

Toronto won World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

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Blue Jays fan Frankie Lasagna just misses catching Aaron Judge’s 61st home run ball

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By Gregory Strong in Toronto

Blue Jays fan Frankie Lasagna grabbed a baseball glove from his garage before heading down to Rogers Centre for Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees.

With Aaron Judge on the verge of baseball history, Lasagna wanted to be prepared just in case the Yankees slugger hit his 61st homer of the season.

“I would never ever bring a glove other than this situation,” Lasagna said. “I needed a bigger one.”

The 37-year-old Toronto restaurant owner came agonizingly close to catching the historic ball when Judge went deep in the seventh inning.

Lasagna stretched over the railing but the ball hit the wall just a few feet below and bounced into the Toronto bullpen. A Yankees security official later came by to collect it.

The blast tied Judge with Roger Maris, who set the American League’s single-season home run record in 1961.

Lasagna bought his ticket in the front row of the 100 level thinking it would improve his odds of catching the ball if Judge went deep.

“In the front row I felt like you’ve got the best chance,” he said. “Lo and behold, I was just a few feet away.”

Lasagna said the anticipation built during every Judge at-bat.

“It’s like you’re in the game, you’re fielding and getting ready for the pitch,” he said. “When he hit the ball, it was like ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ I think I hit my buddy in his neck (as I stretched out). I almost got it.”

Lasagna could only look down into the bullpen as the ball — which could have been worth big bucks to a collector — bounced a couple times before it was picked up.

“The disbelief comes over you and just the shock and the amazement,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I almost had it.'”

One fan seated near Lasagna, still clearly frustrated at just missing the ball, declined to be interviewed.

Lasagna, sporting a baby blue Vladimir Guerrero Jr., jersey, said he would have kept the ball if he had caught it.

“I would have held on to it for as long as I could (to) negotiate,” he said. “Maybe get Judge to try to come to the restaurant.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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