Red Sox should avoid trading for White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier
Chicago slugger Todd Frazier may look like a flashy option to help out the floundering Red Sox at third base. But there’s too much risk to trade assets.
Boston Red Sox President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has been around long enough for fans to have a pretty good idea of what he is thinking. His long history with other teams aside, the trades for Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Thornburg that he has made speak to his overall philosophy on team building: Cut ties with the risky long-term assets for more assured short-term veterans.
Now tasked with filling the glaring hole at third base, one obvious trade candidate is Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier.
In fact, there have been recent reports that Red Sox sent top talent evaluators to Chicago to scout starting pitcher Jose Quintana, and are undoubtedly paying attention to Frazier as well.
The need for a third baseman is well documented around Boston. The unit of Pablo Sandoval, Josh Rutledge, Marco Hernandez, Deven Marrero, Brock Holt and Steve Selsky have combined for a putrid .218/.266/.320 slash line, good for 58% of the average third baseman’s OPS. Defense hasn’t boded any better, as the third base crew has committed 13 errors in 40 games en route to a -5 defensive runs saved mark.
Despite the obvious shortcomings, the Red Sox would be best to take one of two options: Either ride out their current situation and see if one of the six players to take up the position can stick, or look for a cheap alternative elsewhere. Emphasis on cheap.
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After ranking the Red Sox farm system 10th in the majors (even after the Kimbrel trade) to start the 2016 season, Keith Law of ESPN ranked Boston 16th heading into 2017. Usually touting one of the game’s top pipelines to the bigs, Dombrowski’s roster-building efforts have clearly taken their toll on the minor league levels. Further depletion of that spells trouble for the long-term future of the Red Sox, who often rely on a core of homegrown youngsters to succeed.
This is especially true when the trade target in question isn’t even all that good, a la Todd Frazier.
The White Sox third baseman is currently sporting a .198/.289/.369 slash line, equating to am 83 OPS+ (league-average is 100). Yes, it’s still better than what the Red Sox currently have at the hot corner, but that isn’t saying a whole lot.
Frazier is coming off a 40-homer campaign, but ignore the flash of the long ball and a 108 OPS+ and 163 strikeouts lurk underneath. He was by no means bad, but he wasn’t the multi-All-Star that used to suit up for the Cincinnati Reds.
There are concerning signs that the 31-year old’s regression is legitimate and something to caution. Frazier’s soft-hit percentage is at a career-high of 23.6%, while his hard-hit percentage is a career-low of 27.0%. This distribution of contact has led to a career-low home-run-to-fly-ball ratio (the percentage of fly balls that leave the yard) of 10.0%. For a fly-ball hitter like Frazier, that means home runs are turning into warning track outs.
His pull-percentage is at a career-high of 50.6%, showing a decreased tendency to use the opposite field. A strategy of swinging early on the fastball makes a hitter especially vulnerable to offspeed pitches, which opposing pitchers have already picked up on.
Frazier is seeing a career-low 50.9% fastballs, a career-high 23.4% sliders and a career-high 11.8% changeups. Not only are pitchers throwing more sliders and changeups to Frazier, but they are putting them in spots difficult to pull the ball.
With little adjustment on Frazier’s part to ease up on pulling the ball, the results on these pitches isn’t hard to guess.
When left over the middle, Frazier still has the raw power to do some damage, but as soon as offspeed offerings start to drift to the outside part of the plate, his pull-heavy swing proves largely futile.
Todd Frazier isn’t the right third baseman for the Red Sox to give up a potentially important minor league chip or two. With 20-year-old top prospect Rafael Devers starting to knock on the door via a .994 OPS in Double-A, now also isn’t the time to splurge on what will likely amount to be a stopgap.
Next: Pablo Sandoval begins rehab assignment in Pawtucket
Frazier is a high-risk, high-reward player, but the current third base situation calls for the opposite.