Which playoff contenders should target the White Sox’s Todd Frazier?
A number of teams in playoff contention in the American League could use the services of White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier.
In a parity-filled American League, one team that should be looking to trade away veterans is the Chicago White Sox. At 32-43, they have the worst record in the AL. They are dead last in the AL Central, eight games behind Cleveland, and 7.5 games out of the second wild card. Now, 7.5 games is not an insurmountable deficit, but the White Sox would have to jump over nine teams to get a playoff spot. As the British might say, that’s not bloody likely.
The White Sox already started the rebuilding process when they traded Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in the offseason. Those deals netted them some great prospects, including Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez. Another name being dangled in the off-season was starting pitcher Jose Quintana, but the White Sox’ asking price was steep and they didn’t make a deal. Now that Quintana had a career-high 4.69 ERA (4.07 FIP), the White Sox asking price has likely dropped. It looks like they waited too long to deal Quintana. They shouldn’t do the same with a couple of veterans who are still on the roster.
The team’s most expensive veteran is starting pitcher James Shields, but his performance (4.26 ERA, 6.74 FIP) and $21 million salary make him untradeable. Outfielder Melky Cabrera is making $15 million and has been a below-replacement level player so far, so he would be hard to deal. Reliever David Robertson is owed $25 million over the next two years. The White Sox should be calling the Washington Nationals three times a day trying to trade Robertson.
One other veteran player for the Sox is Todd Frazier, making $12 million in his final year before free agency. Frazier had a slow start to the year. He was hitting .184/.300/.368 through the season’s first two months. He’s come around in June, though, with a .266/.366/.544 triple-slash line and six homers in 93 plate appearances. He’s been worth 0.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR, according to FanGraphs) and is projected to be a 1.4 WAR player going forward.
Frazier could help some teams currently contending for a playoff spot. He seems to have shaken his early-season slump. His strikeout rate is below his career mark and he’s walking more than he ever has in a season. He also still provides good defense at third base.
So which contending teams should be dialing the White Sox’s phone? Here are five potential landing spots for Todd Frazier.
Admittedly, this is a stretch because the Orioles are set at third base with Manny Machado and they re-signed DH Mark Trumbo to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in the offseason. Unfortunately, neither Machado nor Trumbo are hitting like the Orioles expected them too. You can’t do anything but let Machado continue to play, but you could move Trumbo away from the DH spot and put him at first base or right field. His defense won’t be good but he has consistently hit better when playing the field throughout his career.
In 770 career plate appearances as a DH, Trumbo has hit .235/.299/.431, making him 4% below league average (96 wRC+). He’s been a bit better when playing first base (.249/.295/.467, 108 wRC+) and much better when playing right field, hitting .278/.336/.517 (129 wRC+). The team’s regular first baseman, Chris Davis, is on the DL. Trey Mancini has been getting starts at the position and has hit well and is projected to continue to be an above average hitter, so he should continue to fill in for Davis at first. That means moving Trumbo to right field and having Seth Smith split time between right and left, with Frazier being the DH.
Another, better option, in my opinion, would be to move Machado to shortstop and put Frazier at third base. The team’s regular shortstop, J.J. Hardy, is out with a fractured wrist. Machado has proven he can handle shortstop in the past. He played 45 games their last year. Moving Machado to short and putting Frazier at third would likely gain the team a win or two over the rest of the season.
A win or two may not seem like much, but the team is currently just 4.5 games out in the AL East and 2.5 games out of a wild card spot. Every extra win or two is important to the Orioles this year. Of course, adding a hitter doesn’t address the real problem on the Orioles, which is a pitching staff that has allowed the second-most runs per game of any team in baseball, but Frazier would help them on the hitting side.
Kansas City Royals
Like the Baltimore Orioles, the Kansas City Royals don’t have a need at third base. They have a resurgent Mike Moustakas at the hot corner and Moose Tacos is having one of his best years with the bat. Acquiring Frazier would be an attempt by the Royals to capitalize on the mediocre AL Central, where they are just 2.5 games out of first. They are also just two games out of a wild card spot.
Before the season, it looked like the Royals would either make a final run with the guys who got them to the World Series in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 or trade away some of their veterans if the season went awry. As of right now, they are poised to make a run.
One of the glaring weaknesses in the Royals’ lineup is DH Brandon Moss, who is hitting just .194/.280/.410 (79 wRC+). All players used at the DH spot by the Royals have combined to be 22% worse than league average. Among AL teams, only the Orioles and Angels have had worst production from their DHs.
If the Royals were to pull the plug on Brandon Moss as their regular DH, they could add Todd Frazier and gain a projected 1-2 wins over the rest of the season. Moss is owed $7.25 million for next season, which might make the Royals hesitant to bench him, but this really is a do-or-die year for the franchise. Many of the guys who got them to back-to-back postseasons will be free agents at the end of the year, including Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar. The Royals have two paths to the playoffs, winning their division or getting a wild card spot, and Todd Frazier can help them get there.
Los Angeles Angels
Even though they have almost no chance of winning the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels are still very much in contention for a wild card spot. They sit just one game out right now, even with Mike Trout on the DL for the last month. The team was 26-27 when Trout injured his thumb and have gone 15-12 since.
The Angels’ third baseman is Yunel Escobar. He’s been less valuable than Todd Frazier has been so far this year and Frazier has a better projection going forward. Frazier is also a much better power hitter. Only two American League teams have hit fewer home runs than the Angels, so adding some pop to their lineup is something they should consider.
That being said, Escobar has provided positive value. The real issue for the team is at first base and DH, both positions at which the Angels are dead last in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The team has mainly used Luis Valbuena, Jefry Marte, and C.J. Cron at first base and none of them have been particularly good. The primary DH has been Albert Pujols, who has been worth -1.0 WAR so far and projects to be worth just 0.2 WAR going forward.
Pujols is still owed a gazillion dollars, so he won’t be benched (it’s actually four years and $114 million AFTER this season). Frazier has played some first base in the past and would likely be willing to do so again if he were traded to a contender. He would make the Angels better a little better in a season in which most of the American League still has a shot to make the playoffs.
New York Yankees
The difference between Frazier and current Yankees third baseman Chase Headley is negligible. They’ve gone about it different ways, but have produced similar value so far this season. Frazier does it with power, while Headley has a better on-base percentage. They are also projected to be very close in value over the remainder of the season.
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The big need for the Yankees offense is at first base, where they rank second-to-last in the AL in WAR (per FanGraphs). Chris Carter has the most plate appearances as a first baseman for the team, but he was so bad that he was designated for assignment last week. Young Tyler Austin got the start on Monday and the team is still hoping Greg Bird can come back from injury to solidify the spot.
The Yankees could stick with what they have and bet on Bird being productive down the road or they could kick the tires on Todd Frazier to play first base (or third base, with Headley moving to first). The Yankees weren’t expected to be as good as they’ve been this year, but cracks are starting to show. After starting the year with a 38-23 record, they’ve gone 3-10 over their last 13 games.
The Yankees are currently tied for first with their biggest rivals, the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have a massive Pablo Sandoval-sized hole at third base. The Yankees could sign Frazier to help their offense and at the same time prevent him from helping the Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox
As much as Frazier would help the other teams on this list, his best possible landing spot would be with the Boston Red Sox. This is a deal that should have been done a month ago. The Red Sox have received the worst production at third base of any team in baseball and it’s not particularly close. Red Sox third baseman have combined to hit .210/.260/.304. That’s -1.4 WAR if you’re scoring at home. Every other AL team has received positive value at third base this year.
Pablo Sandoval, Deven Marrero, Josh Rutledge, and Marco Hernandez have played almost all of the innings at third base for the Red Sox and they’ve all been terrible with the bat. Sandoval is currently on the DL. He’s on a contract that pays him $17 million this year and $18 million in each of the next two years. The Red Sox would like to get something out of him, but it hasn’t been pretty for Pablo. He doesn’t project to do much over the Rest of the season (0.1 WAR).
Todd Frazier would be an instant upgrade for the Red Sox on offense and defense. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, so if Boston wants to continue to play Sandoval in an attempt to salvage what has been a terrible signing, they can do so next year, when they aren’t locked in a pennant race with the Yankees. It’s a small sample size, but Frazier has hit .217/.321/.522 in the six games he’s played at Fenway Park in his career. Boston is the best landing spot for Todd Frazier.