Red Sox: Trading for Todd Frazier is not the answer at third base

Apr 1st, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (21) against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 1st, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (21) against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago White Sox are rumored to be making third baseman Todd Frazier available, but he’s not an option the Boston Red Sox should consider.

It’s clear that the Chicago White Sox are in the midst of an aggressive rebuild, beginning with the trade that shipped Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, instantly making their farm system among the best in baseball. The tear-down should not end there, which is why Todd Frazier‘s name has been floating through the rumor mill.

The ChiSox acquired Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds last winter, but he could be on the move again. There’s no reason for Chicago to hold on to him through the last year of his contract if they aren’t planning to contend in 2017, while dealing Frazier for another prospect or two would help accelerate their rebuilding process.

With Frazier potentially on the market, it’s no surprise that the Red Sox are being mentioned as a potential landing spot. Jeff Todd from MLB Trade Rumors listed Boston among the suitors for the veteran third baseman last month, while Bleacher Report’s Zachary Rymer stated a case for why he makes sense as a target for the Red Sox.

There are a few valid reasons to consider trading for Frazier, the most obvious of which is the power in his bat. Frazier blasted a career-high 40 home runs last season and has averaged nearly 35 over the last three years since he first broke out as an All-Star for the Reds. He’s a right-handed pull hitter that puts the ball in the air, making him an ideal fit for Fenway Park. You can imagine him mashing moonshots over the Green Monster with regularity, while it should be noted that Frazier has homered twice in six career games in Boston.

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The Red Sox have few questions lingering over their roster entering spring training, but third base remains an area of concern. The team is trusting a slimmed down Pablo Sandoval to regain some semblance of the player that convinced the previous front office regime to hand him $95 million. Needless to say, after a dismal first season was followed by one almost entirely wiped out by injury, fans aren’t overly optimistic.

Frazier would provide the Red Sox with a more reliable option at the hot corner, while also replacing the home run power the team lost with David Ortiz‘s retirement.

That being said… I still want no part of adding Frazier to this team.

The power numbers are appealing, but Frazier is hardly what you’d call a great hitter. Last season he hit an appalling .225 with a .302 OBP. Both represented career-lows, while his career .250 average and .317 OBP aren’t anything to write home about either.

Frazier’s 24.5 strikeout percentage was the 13th worst rate in the American League. He owned a respectable 9.6 walk percentage, but not nearly enough to salvage his dreadful on-base percentage.

He drove in a career-high 98 RBI, but that’s mildly disappointing from a 40-homer hitter. Of the eight major league hitters that hit 40+ home runs last season, only Chris Carter drove in fewer runs (94). The same Chris Carter that had to settle for a 1-year, $3 million deal with the Yankees coming off a season where he led the National League in home runs.

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Chicago’s offense, which ranked 20th in runs scored, partially explains why Frazier didn’t drive in more runs, but he deserves a fair share of the blame himself. As dismal as his batting average was, it sunk even lower when an RBI opportunity presented itself. He hit .202 with runners on base and a putrid .169 with runners in scoring position. When he wasn’t hitting home runs, Frazier simply wasn’t providing much from a run production standpoint.

Viewed as a solid defensive player for most of his career, Frazier seemed to lose a step last year, ranking a bit below average with -2 defensive runs saved. He turns 31 years old next week, so we can’t count on him to drastically improve in the field. If anything, he’s more likely to continue trending downward.

Another reason to be skeptical of Boston’s interest in Frazier is his $12 million salary. The Red Sox could squeeze him into their budget without exceeding the dreaded luxury tax threshold, but doing so would hamstring their ability to make other moves during the season. Do they really want to add that salary to their payroll when they’re already paying Sandoval $17.6 million to play the same position?

Nobody is expecting Sandoval to regain the peak form that made him a two-time All-Star, but if he remains in decent shape then it’s feasible that he can get back to the level he was at in 2014 when he hit .279 with a .739 OPS. Aside from the power, Frazier doesn’t provide enough of an upgrade from that to entice the Red Sox into surrendering more of their prospects to Chicago.

Next: Red Sox sign Mike Olt

Let’s give Sandoval a chance to prove himself as a serviceable third baseman. If he falls flat once again and Frazier remains available around the trade deadline, then the Red Sox can reconsider making that move. By then they’ll have a better assessment of their other needs and hopefully the price tag on Frazier will drop.