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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Joe Girardi out as Yankees manager

That’s not what you want, if you’re Joe Girardi.

The Yankees announced on Thursday morning that they will not bring Girardi back for next season.

Definitely a bit of a shock. I mean, just yesterday I wrote that it seemed unlikely that he would leave and wondered who could even replace him if he did. Perhaps the Yankees thought that the kids could have been handled better? Gary Sanchez comes to mind. Or maybe they didn’t like the way he handled the bullpen…details will probably come out in the next few days.

Anyway it’s done. Who is going to replace Girardi? There is no George Steinbrenner around to abuse the managers, but with intense media pressure it’s still not the right job for just anybody. On top of that, any candidate will have to balance championship expectations with developing a lot of young players. Not an easy job.

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Stay or Go: Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi?

Over the next few days I’m going to introduce players, and in this instance general managers and managers, who are on the bubble of returning next season to discuss the pros and cons of bringing them back.

I thought it made sense to start at the top with Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi, who are both free agents this offseason.

Cashman is a no brainer at this point. He pulled off an impressive rebuild of the organization and, while they were mediocre at times, they were never bad. Unlike the Houston Astros, this team is not the result of losing on purpose.

On the fence about Cashman? Consider the roster. He managed to add Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks for almost nothing. At this year’s deadline, he managed to add a bat, two relievers, and one of the top starting pitchers on the market without giving up any of the elite major-league-ready prospects (I’m not even going to get into the awesome deadline Cashman had in July 2016).

Sure there were misses along the way, such as going after Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Robinson Cano, or trading Cano when they could have (would have been a shrewd move considering their bid was less than $70 million than what the Mariners offered). But if Ellsbury’s bad contract is literally the only bad contract left on the team that gives them a fair amount of flexibility headed to the future with a solid core.

But what about Girardi?

I’ve gone back and forth on Girardi over the years where there were times I thought he sucked, and times I thought he was great. Right now is one of those times that I’m kinda low on him, but it feels pointless to fight the inevitable — he’s coming back.

Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have always liked Girardi and certainly never sparred with him publicly. And he doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. Sure there were more than a handful of times he could have been second guessed in the playoffs alone (why not challenge that hit by pitch?), but if you look around there are a lot of managers making questionable moves every game. He’s not the best, but there are far worse.

There is also no clear replacement. If new Marlins owner Derek Jeter (weirdest thing I’ve ever typed) had fired Don Mattingly (weirder) than I could see the tabloids making a fuss, but that doesn’t appear to be likely. I’m sure there are plenty of names out there that maybe, could fit, but New York is still like no other place.

It just seems pointless to fight the inevitable with Girardi. But I’m curious — who is out there that could fit with the Yankees if they were to replace Joey G?

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Okay the season’s over, now extend the netting for 2018!

As a relatively young, coordinated, athletic man who played baseball growing up and continues to play softball now, I have never felt unsafe at any baseball game, regardless of the netting. How often, however, do you see people sitting along the first and third baseline that are not lucky enough to feel so safe? It’s all too often.

The recent events with the young girl who was hit in the head by a batted ball off the bat of Todd Frazier and was subsequently hospitalized called this to everyone’s attention. I don’t mean to speculate, but as an Emergency Medicine physician, I know that you don’t get hospitalized for over a week for a concussion, regardless of age. Unfortunately, something more happened to this girl, and I just hope and pray that it does not affect her in the long term. That would be a tragedy.

Selfishly, putting up nets would do nothing for me personally. In fact, going to games would become slightly less enjoyable from those first and third baseline seats. There would be no potential for catching a foul ball, and the nets would inevitably make it harder to see the ball. They’d have to decrease the pricing of those seats slightly, which is I’m sure a huge part of the motivation to avoid putting up the netting. Before you jump down their throats over it, don’t forget these guys are running a business and it is their obligation to their employees to try to make as much money as possible for that business.

On the other hand, it is their obligation to their customers to do whatever is in their power to keep them safe while consuming the product of Major League Baseball. At this point though, I am going to take a turn and say that I do not think there is any excuse left not to extend the netting. In fact, it poses a significant risk going forward for the team, as the evidence is there that it is dangerous. To continue not having the nets will be a huge legal liability, especially with what I am about to tell you.

The Yankees have used the excuse in the past that they have signs everywhere saying to stay off your cell phone during the game, and to pay constant attention while you are in those seats. The featured photo you see at the top of the article was taken from my cell phone. I was lucky enough to be sitting one of the seats that was very close to the field along the third base line, not covered by the netting. The picture you see is a menu, complete with instructions on how to download an app and order food/drinks from your cell phone. I would add a couple of things to this. The app is slow, and you will often have to recheck your phone several times to make sure a transaction went through or to check and see if the product you are looking for has loaded on the screen yet. The other thing I would add is that there was not one waitor/waitress, beer man, cotton candy salesperson, or any other salesperson that made their way to our section during the entire 9 innings contest.

This is not a complaint. As someone who was not concerned about the lack of nets for my safety, I had no qualms about using the app to order, or going up to the concession stands to get my products either. That said, for the Yankees to say that they are discouraging cell phone use is a complete lie. They have an app that essentially encourages cell phone use in an irresponsible way, and furthermore they have no beer or other salespersons walking around the park to sell food and drinks; this is quite the opposite of discouraging cell phone use. Worse yet, they promote the app by placing the above pamphlet in the cupholders of the very seats that are the most dangerous in the park. The third and first baseline lower level seats.

There is no excuse for this. It would be one thing if you were to resist extending the netting for financial reasons; but then to promote the use of cell phones in those seats and ignore the calls of your players and the fans repeatedly is deplorable.

I have this nervous feeling that they are just waiting for all of this to blow over and next year they will do nothing and all will be forgotten. By writing this article, I am hoping to re-open this can of worms again and shed some light on some of the practices that are going on at the stadium now. I may even post a refresher as the new season nears if an announcement is not made that they have decided to extend the netting.

Hopefully it is already in the Yankees’ plans to do the right thing. If this is the case, then it is great that they have chosen to have a conscience with regard to their fans, the people who pay their salary. If not, however, then the opposite is true. I would encourage people to continue to put pressure on the Yankees to extend the netting. Use social media to your advantage, and use the hashtag #extendthenetting when doing so. If they won’t do the right thing, then maybe we can force their hands.

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