The Toddfather Heads to Texas

The Rangers beefed up their infield depth over the weekend, signing third baseman Todd Frazier to a one-year contract. The former Reds All-Star will be guaranteed at least $5 million, with a base salary of $3.5 million in 2020 along with a $1.5 million buyout if the team doesn’t pick up his $5.75 million option in 2021.

Adding Frazier is just the latest addition to a team that has been slowly reconfiguring its roster for contention over the last 18 or so months. Adding Frazier to the infield gives the team flexibility to deal with their remaining roster questions in ways that the returning Danny Santana does not. With Delino DeShields gone to the Indians in the Corey Kluber trade, Santana figures to get playing time in center field, making him less available on the infield.

Ronald Guzmán as the starting first baseman presents a significant lineup problem, for whom Frazier represents a fallback. Even if Guzmán doesn’t lose his job completely, the fact that he’s hit .179/.242/.315 against lefties in the majors leaves Frazier as a compelling timeshare candidate — he has a.246/.322/.491 career line against lefties. Frazier’s no longer a Gold Glove candidate at third base, but he’s solid enough at the hot corner to give the Rangers a free hand to play Nick Solak at second — Rougned Odor doesn’t have the longest rope — or in the outfield.

Frazier was looking nearly done early in 2019; at one point in late May, he was hitting .205/.262/.333 with four homers against 26 strikeouts. Frazier recovered to finish at .251/.329/.443 with 21 homers and 1.9 WAR, but his plate discipline varied wildly, with 30-game stretches with an O-Swing% that ranged from down around 20% to up around nearly 40%. Very rarely do you see such a clean relationship between a player’s plate discipline and their overall performance.

It’s hard for a contract like this one to go too wrong; if Frazier is toast, he doesn’t make so much that cutting him would be embarrassing for the front office. The main way I could see this contract going badly is if the Rangers aren’t creative about finding playing time for Nick Solak, and Frazier’s presence cuts heavily into his at-bats. Solak’s more likely to be on the team in three years than Frazier is, so you want to make sure you’re exploring all of what he has to offer, a chance he certainly earned given his late-season .293/.393/.491 line in 33 games.

At the price, the Rangers aren’t paying Todd Frazier to revisit his prime, during which he had two four-win seasons and another year in which he slugged 40 homers. In his limited role, he’ll be a plus for Texas in 2020.

ZiPS Projection – Todd Frazier
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2020 .247 .331 .437 442 63 109 19 1 21 76 49 107 4 96 0 1.2

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Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I was kind of hoping they would try and swing a deal for Nick Senzel, but I don’t think they could swing it without hurting the team this year. Realistically, I’d hope that they give Senzel a chance to take the everyday 2nd base job and swap Odor for another change of scenery candidate, but it’s not feeling like that’s going to happen.

smb11488
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smb11488

I’m not sure why the Reds would have any interest in dealing Senzel unless it’s for a game changing type of talent

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Ack! I meant Solak to take the everyday 2nd base job!

Because yeah, I don’t think the Reds would trade him for anything short of Joey Gallo or Lance Lynn (who are not getting moved). On the other hand, I’m not sure why the Reds decided to block Senzel at the last three positions he played, which also happen to be the three highest spots on the defensive spectrum he can play. To be fair, he is projected for only about 1.5 wins this year, but I can’t figure out the Reds’ plan for them.

whiptydojoe
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whiptydojoe

The Reds have three options as of 1/13 with Senzel
1.) He plays LF. Least amount of work for the FO and least amount of work for Senzel. He probably winds up league-average defensively there, maybe a small plus.
2.) They play Senzel at SS. This would mean Galvis being a bench player and an OF of Winker-Akiyama-Aquino (or any combination of the slew of OFs they have). Defensively this would lead to an already questionable IF defense being highly-suspect around the entire infield.
3.) Trade for Seager/Lindor as has been rumored. Package would -likely- include Senzel.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I could totally see them playing him at SS, based on their previous commitments to infield defense. I don’t think Senzel’s rep around the league is nearly this positive in trades, though. He’s projected for 1.5 wins next year, is hurt a lot, is advancing in service time, and in both of those specific cases the teams would have glaring holes at shortstop they would need to fix.

If Andrelton Simmons had two years of control instead of one, I could see that trade happening. Or for he could be part of a package for Trevor Story (probably with some of their flamethrowers in the minors) if the Rockies decide to blow it all up by trading Arenado (since they have a top SS prospect who is ready for the majors).