Where Will Todd Frazier Play in 2017?

With Chris Sale now employed by the Boston Red Sox and Adam Eaton preparing for a season with front-row tickets to the Presidents Race, there can be no question about the current objectives of the White Sox. The stars-and-scrubs strategy they’ve employed for the past few years can now be viewed as an abject failure as the team revamps and retools by cashing in those aforementioned stars for players like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Yoan Moncada, who figure to be key future contributors.

The term “fire sale” is a bit cliché, but it’s undeniable that there is an “everything must go” sense of urgency to what the White Sox are currently doing. Which means it remains likely that Jose Quintana’s days in the South Side are likely numbered and first baseman Jose Abreu may soon be out there door. If you’re placing odds on White Sox players likely to be traded in the near future, however, none will have higher odds than third baseman Todd Frazier.

The power-hitting Frazier is entering his final year of arbitration and will be 31 years old when Opening Day rolls around. According to the arbitration projections run by Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors, Frazier is likely to command a salary next year in the ballpark of $13.5 million. Over the past three seasons, Frazier has hit 104 homers – a figure that is second only to Josh Donaldson’s 107 among major-league third basemen. His ISO (isolated power) since 2015 is .241, or just a shade above Kris Bryant’s .238 ISO. Securing the services of a player with that kind of pop to man the hot corner on a one-year, $13.5 million contract would be an absolute coup in the free-agent market, but will the White Sox be able to convert that into a decent return in the trade market?

The first thing to note about Frazier’s potential trade market is that it’s highly unlikely he’ll move until the best third baseman on the free-agent market – and, arguably, the best free agent of the offseason – Justin Turner is signed. Once that happens, however, the available free-agent options at third base will drop several tiers in quality to Luis Valbuena, after whom the drop off is steeper still to guys like Trevor Plouffe, and, uh, is Juan Uribe still playing? Put another way: Turner is the ideal first choice for any team in the market for a third baseman this winter, but a player like Frazier can make an easy case to be the second-best available option.

This is not to say, of course, that Frazier is a perfect solution for any team in need of hot-corner help. He has power, yes; beyond that, though, he’s an obviously flawed player. No qualified player has hit pop ups at a higher rate than Frazier of the past two seasons, which helps explains his notably low BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Last season, his .236 BABIP ranked dead last among 146 qualified hitters. He compounded that difficulty in getting on base by striking out at the highest rate of his career (24.5%). Were it not for career highs in homers (40) and walk rate (9.6%), his batting average and on-base percentage would have looked even worse than the .225 and .302 marks he posted, respectively. He’ll steal a few bags and advanced defensive metrics rate him decently well, although they dipped a bit last year. However, were it not for his power, Frazier would be a rather unremarkable major leaguer.

Fortunately for Frazier and the White Sox, though, the power is real. And it will provide incentive for a team that misses out on signing Turner to turn its eyes to Frazier. Which team will it be? There are a few dark horses who could pursue third-base help — including the Pirates, should the fallout of Jung Ho Kang’s legal difficulties strain that relationship. Beyond the ever present “mystery teams,” though, there are four obvious candidates who intend to contend in 2017 and are in position to pursue a third baseman: the Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, and Red Sox. Let’s run them down in reverse order of likelihood they acquire Frazier:

Cardinals

After signing center fielder Dexter Fowler, the Cardinals are rumored to be interested in notable free-agent position players such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, and even Justin Turner, despite the current presence of third baseman Jhonny Peralta in St. Louis. Should they whiff on available infield upgrades, it’s possible they could pursue Frazier, although I’m unconvinced Frazier on a one-year deal would constitute enough of an upgrade over Peralta to justify a trade package that would satisfy both sides.

Giants

On the surface, Frazier is the quintessential Giants acquisition – a veteran player with flaws who has overstayed his welcome on his current team. Can’t you just envision Frazier being the next folk hero to lead San Francisco to a postseason? That said, it’s hard to imagine a home-run-power-first guy being the ideal fit for 81 games at AT&T Park.

Red Sox

Forgive me for not being convinced that the Red Sox are content to hand over the third-base job to Pablo Sandoval. The Red Sox are in win-now mode as much as any team can be. Their rotation is one of the strongest on paper and the team that scored the most runs in baseball in 2016 is set to bring back the majority of its young lineup. The notable exception to their returning offense, of course, is the departure of home-run hitter David Ortiz. Frazier is no Ortiz, but wouldn’t it be fun to see what he could do with the Green Monster at his home park for a year?

Dodgers

There should be no doubt that the Dodgers have genuine interest in re-signing Turner. He’s been a tremendous asset for the team’s offense and one of the better non-tendered free-agent acquisitions in recent memory. That said, Frazier is a year younger than Turner and doesn’t command a four- or five-year commitment. Additionally, although they are both right-handed hitters, Frazier has more traditional platoon splits than Turner, who has actually sported reverse platoon splits over his career. In this sense, Frazier could be a natural fit given the Dodgers atrocious performance against left-handed pitchers last season.

Once Turner moves, things could happen quickly on the third-base market, and the White Sox will undoubtedly be prepared to act. Although there’s an appeal of acquiring a player like Frazier who doesn’t require a long-term commitment, the sizable arbitration salary commanded should prevent the White Sox from bringing in a sizable return like they did for Sale and Eaton — or like they can expect from a potential Quintana trade. Even still, the White Sox can and should expect a market to develop, with multiple teams likely to have genuine interest in securing Frazier’s services.





Corinne Landrey writes for FanGraphs and MLB.com's Cut4 site. Follow her on Twitter @crashlandrey.

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Pirates Hurdles
7 years ago

Why has Frazier “overstayed his welcome on his current team”? Is there bad blood in Chicago?

Cromulentmember
7 years ago

Why wouldn’t it just mean that he no longer fits the direction the team is going?

TKDCmember
7 years ago
Reply to  Cromulent

It’s a bit of an odd way of saying that. Normally that phrase has a negative connotation.