The Todd Frazier dilemma

One of the common sentiments among Yankees fans since the end of the season has been the desire to sign Todd Frazier this offseason to keep him in pinstripes. Believe it or not, the two alternatives of this decision form a complex and difficult conundrum for the Yankees and actually could shape the entire offseason strategy for the front office. Time to elaborate.

It starts with simple question. Do we want to bring Todd Frazier back? Or not? The answer actually has far reaching implications. This is possibly the most difficult question to answer of all. There are many pertinent considerations.

Frazier is a bit of a hometown hero, dating back to the little league world series in 1998 when he was the star of his team. They won the Little League World Series that year. Fast forward 13 years and Frazier made his professional baseball debut with the Reds. He has had a solid career over seven years. He has hit .245/.321/.459/.779 with 175 homeruns. This past season he hit .213/.344/.428/.772 with 27 homeruns.

After being traded to the Yankees, he became popular with the fans and was a leader in the clubhouse. He and Aaron Judge started the thumbs down craze, which was a crowd favorite. His leadership had a positive impact on the entire Yankees team. Many of the young players latched onto him and learned a great deal.

In the playoffs, he came up with several clutch hits. He started and finished several important rallies that helped get the Yankees where they were going. He was 8/43 throughout the playoffs with two doubles and a homerun. He also had four walks. That gave him a .186/.239/.302/.541 line in the playoffs. As well liked as he is, anyone looking at that stat line has to acknowledge it’s really bad. Let’s call it what it is though, a small sample size against some of the best pitching in the league.

It’s important to note that this guy oozes leadership and charisma. From a clubhouse perspective, they should keep him around for sure. Emotionally, most Yankees fans would like to have him back. I played baseball against him all through little league and high school (we are the same age). I would love to see him continue to play for my favorite team.

He is an above average defensive third baseman, he hits a bunch of homeruns, and has accumulated a 22.0 WAR (wins above replacement) in his career. This past year, he had a WAR of 3.4. Combine this with his longing to be a Yankee and the leadership skills, and it’s safe to say you want this guy back.

There are, however, reasons to reconsider that notion. The Yankees already have Chase Headley at third, and Greg Bird at first. They have Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar in the minors, and both look like they are ready for the big show. Gleyber could be moved to second base, but they already have Starlin Castro there. Signing Frazier without making another move would almost certainly block Torres and Andujar from playing in the majors next year, and possibly beyond (depending on the length of the contract).

The low average is also frustrating. It’s no fun watching a guy strike out or hit pop ups in key situations over and over again. Those types of guys can be rally killers. He also has only had a couple of seasons where he had an OPS over .800, and the most recent was all the way back in 2015.

The other consideration is the opportunity cost. What does signing Frazier cost you in terms of getting under the luxury tax threshold? What other players could you have signed with that money that may have benefitted the team more? Does signing Frazier prevent them from being able to sign a top notch starting pitcher? These are all valid concerns.

With all of this to consider, you start to see how complex this decision becomes, and how it really does depend on how you approach the rest of the offseason.

Once you have decided whether or not you want Todd Frazier on your team, you then have to decide how you will approach the rest of your offseason.

If the answer is yes, the first question that must be answered is the contract. Personally, I don’t think you can keep Frazier on anything other than a one year, hometown discount, prove yourself for next offseason type of contract. There is a legitimate argument that he might go for that, especially with his love for this area and the New York Yankees. I tend to believe it is rare that you have a player who is this altruistic. Nor do I think they should be. I have yet to meet the owner who wants to give away his money to make the players wealthier, so why should the players do that for the already much more wealthy owners? Most of the time, you will go where the money takes you. For Frazier, I believe that money will be in the neighborhood of 3-5 years, $10-12 million per year.

For the record, if the contract is three years, $12 million, or 5 years, $10 million, I am not interested. That said, an argument could be made that the Yankees should go for it at three years, $12 million. This contract, in my opinion, would block their excellent infield prospects for too long. They have players in the minors who could be as productive as if not more than Frazier at less than 1/10th of the cost. These are legitimate prospects too. One of them is widely considered the top prospect in all of baseball (Gleyber Torres), and the other is likely a top 100 prospect now (Miguel Andujar).

Assuming that the Yankees want to sign Frazier, and are able to (regardless of the cost), the next question is what to do about the rest of infield. One option would be to do nothing else. This option would leave the Yankees with the same infield they had in the playoffs. It begs the question of what to do with your top prospects. The answer to that is quite simple. The Yankees have shown a recent willingness to dump players who are not performing, no matter how big the contract (see A-Rod). If Headley or Frazier doesn’t perform, dump them (this only works if Frazier is on a one-year contract). If both are performing, and your prospects are not ready, you stick with them. If both are performing, and your prospects are ready, you trade one of them, go with your prospects, and DH the other.

Another option would be to trade either Headley or Castro. If you trade Headley, you still have the space to move Frazier to the DH and play your prospect at third. If you trade Castro, you could start Wade at second base at the beginning of the year and then give Torres his shot when he is ready. This is a bit riskier, as you could end up with Wade at second all year if Torres doesn’t prove himself healthy and ready. If Wade is the guy he was last season, then this would be a significant downgrade from Castro.

Ultimately, having too many options at a given position is a good problem to have. Trading from a position of strength is always something you can do. The $12 million it would take to sign him wouldn’t put a huge dent in the luxury tax either. On the other hand, if the money it takes to sign Frazier takes the Yankees out of the starting pitcher market, then a Frazier reunion is not in the cards. Manipulating the roster with trades could also make this signing work.

The decision lies with Brian Cashman. I am not optimistic that there will be a match. If I am Cashman, the only way I bring Frazier back is on a one-year deal to a hometown discount. If I am Frazier, I don’t take that deal. Getting Frazier to the right deal would be a good move for the Yankees. The only problem is, the right deal is not likely to entice Frazier to stay in the Bronx.

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14 Responses to The Todd Frazier dilemma

  1. tom says:

    Because Headley has one year left on contract I don't think signing Frazier to 2-4 year contract is a problem. However, Yankees have no reason to bring him back for a multiple year contract.

    If Frazier takes forever to get a contract then Yankees shouldn't rule him out just in case if Yankees successfully trade either Headley or Castro or both in the winter. I would rather Yankees try to get SP via the Castro trade in the process.

  2. Steve S. says:

    Very well thought out piece. Personally, I don't want Frazier back. Like you say, only a one year deal would be tolerable. Will Cashman play this correctly? I'm not sure. I think it's important to have either Headley or Frazier around for one more year to mentor Andujar and to be there in case he falters. If they don't move Headley then Frazier has to go, and vice versa. I also think they must move Castro to open things up. It's unfortunate that Torres had the injury last season, but if he has a good spring I would plug him right in at second. If they think he's not quite ready I would play Wade there as you suggest or alternate him with Torreyes until they feel Torres is ready. Maybe they move Wade this winter. Lots of unknowns. I'm also curious how much of a look they give Thairo Estrada next spring. To me he looks like an upper case Torreyes. I think he should be in their near future plans. I hope they don't include him in any trade. Lots to be determined. It will be an interesting off season.

  3. Terry says:

    Hopefully the front office can see how once we got a better option at third, it helped us get into the playoffs. Although TF wasn't lights out offensively, Headley is not the answer. I'm not 100% sold on the next wave of youngsters yet. GT had only a handful of games at AAA before getting hurt and Andujar looks to need at least another year before he's ready. But that could be the plan for the year, phase Headley out and the youngster in. If we're to make a run next year again, we need a ML good bat at third. Who else is available? Moose? I personally don't think Andujar's bat projects to be a 30+ homer consistently. I would look to sign a FA, this year or next at third and if you get Andujar ready to be a star, give me that problem. We'll go from relatively no production at third to lights out and keep the DH spot open

    • Steve S. says:

      I couldn't disagree with you more about Andujar. They don't need 30 homers from him. They don't need another power bat that will strike out in excess of 150 times per year. They have enough of those. What they do need is a third baseman who has decent extra base power, can hit for average and who gets his bat on the ball. That's Andujar. He has done nothing but improve as he has climbed every minor league rung. At this point the only chinks in his armor look to be his erratic arm and his lack of walks. He's gotten a lot better with harnessing his strong arm and his lack of walks isn't a capital offence. Look at Castro, Gregorius and Torreyes. To look to sign or trade for a free agent third baseman at this juncture would be madness. Spend the money where it's needed. Like firming up center field while they wait for Florial. Where for some crazy reason the GM has fallen in love with Aaron Hicks.

      • gcorcoran says:

        The bottom line for me is can he be a productive bat. If he can OPS .800+ then the Yankees would be better off with him at $450k than Frazier at $12 million. Homeruns are great but OPS is more important IMO. The other thing is it doesn't have to be Andujar. They could go with, I don't know, the best prospect in all of baseball. Gleyber Torres is going to be a monster.

        • Steve S. says:

          Yes, Torres would certainly be a viable option at third. My sense is that they would prefer him at second. I think his exposure to third has been limited so far. That's just one of the reasons his injury was so unfortunate. But the bottom line is they're loaded all over the infield with what they have here and down below. At second, short and third, with Bird anchoring at first. I'm already impatient and excited for next season.

  4. vincent giordano says:

    you should sign Frazier and get rid of Headley while he still has any trade value. Headley has a very low ceiling for improvement , he is not clutch and goes through month of slumps followed by a few days of hits. On the other hand Frazier is a clutch guy and plays up to the situation at hand. Yea his playoff average was low but his presence and hits were huge (IN THE TWINS SERIES AND ASTROS SERIES HE HAD 2 MONSTER SHOTS TO THE DEEPEST PART OF THE PARK) ONE TOOK BUXTON OUT FOR THE SERIES). He takes walks and pops a home run at anytime. Knowing he will be a Yankee could bring a second life to his career ,rather than playing in dumpholes like Cincinnati and the other Chicago . A team full of rookies and prospects needs a guy like Frazier that was brought up on baseball , knows and loves the game and has a clean cut image . Just because you have these prospects that ''might'' be ready to bring up. It doesn't mean they will bring the word team with them and make the team gel. Frazier is a bridge for the youngster between players and management , he can take alot of pressure off them. He is media friendly. if he is signed i'm sure he will come back in the best shape of his life and ready to do whatever is asked of him without complaining. i think right now yankees need to gel as teammates, because they have the talent, but all that talent has to be managed. Thats where veteran players come in handy. Veteran players that care and that are motivated for the right reasons ..this is just my PARTIAL opinion , so don't get to judgemental when you read it

  5. Nunzio says:

    Todd Frazier is an improvement over Headley at third base , I would keep both players Headley has one year left and I think you do not get much in a trade for him, he plays first and third and bats both sides of the plate , good bench player and for what he is worth keep him.

    • WyomingGrizFan says:

      I somewhat agree. Having Todd Frazier at 3B (a decent defensive 3B still with an OBP of .365) while either Miguel Andujar and/or Gleyber Torres is groomed for 3B/2B themselves, whichever, at AAA. One can always switch around Headley, Frazier and Ellsbury at the DH and have them in the field spelling the main characters like Hicks and Bird, etc., etc., etc.
      I'd really consider checking out what Detroit is in a fire sale over. If you're in hock over a 35-yr old Miguel Cabrera for the next six years for nearly over $ 180 million, then maybe NYY can pry a Daniel Norris from them; also heard that a Patrick Corbin of Arizona would like to be a Yankee, as well. Might be some to scout out and weigh the possibilities.

  6. marianne says:

    i've hated him since the day he came. all he does is strike out and gets errors. so explain to me why he is so great we only benefited by getting the pitchers back on that trade

  7. hotdog says:

    Looks like he wants a multi year contract and I don’t know if that’s in the cards but I wouldn’t mind having his leadership and passion for the game for another year…you can always mix and match…

  8. buckeyeballs says:

    can't give him multi years unless you unload castro and headley some how. Otherwise we block the young guys. If Castro goes Frazier can play third until andujar is ready and DH after that. Torres can play second. Thairo Estrada is hitting well in Arizona league so with him, Wade and Torreyes plenty of middle infield depth. Frazier is a fun guy but not worh creating a logjam for. Also don't forget we have 5 outfielders heading into next year so may need DH to get the other Frazier playing time.

  9. marianne says:

    you guys sound like a bunch of idiots for the lowest avg rental that we had to take if he was so great we would of won div and gone to world series

    • jmw2323 says:

      before you start calling people idiots, please learn the difference between, would've, would have, and would of.

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