Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Clint Frazier, his "legendary bat speed" and all, has been a magnet for attention in his young career. That doesn't figure to change this winter when the Yankees probably have to determine once and for all whether he's a trade chip or a promising cog in their outfield.
Trouble is, there isn't an easy answer.
Frazier, who's still only 25, was the headliner in GM Brian Cashman's widely-praised deal that sent ace reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians at the 2016 deadline. He was the fifth pick in the 2013 MLB Draft and most believed he'd morph into an offensive force.
There have been plenty of flashes, but he hasn't stuck in the majors. He played 69 games during the Yankees' 2019 injury-fest and put up some decent numbers -- 12 homers and an .806 OPS in 246 plate appearances.
But he was often a problem defensively in the outfield and, at one point, refused to talk to most of the media that covers the team about his lapses with the glove. That led some to wonder about his fit in the Bronx fishbowl, where every sentence -- or stretch of silence -- is chewed over by media and fans.
So what could or should the Yankees do with Frazier this winter -- keep him or trade him? Let's take a look.
There's little question Frazier is talented and he plays with high energy. It might be worth seeing what he could do with a genuine chance at the Major League level, something he has not had yet. He's proven he can at Triple-A and his numbers were better in the majors than the minors last season. There's plenty of control left in a player who was once considered one of baseball's best hitting prospects and this past season should have taught the Yanks the importance of depth.
So maybe the Yanks can find at-bats for him in an outfield that currently includes Aaron Judge, Mike Tauchman and, at least at times, Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees need a center fielder, so free agent Brett Gardner remains a likely candidate to play until Aaron Hicks returns from Tommy John surgery.
Could the Yankees pass on Gardner and use Tauchman as the regular center fielder until Hicks comes back? Perhaps. Tauchman was rated highly by defensive metrics across the outfield last year and bloomed as a hitter. That would open up time in left for Frazier, though it would come at the expense of not re-signing the popular Gardner.
Of course, the Yankees would have to make sure Frazier is better defensively. It was too much of an adventure in the outfield at times last season.
Beyond the idea of simply seeing what Frazier could do if given a job, there's another reason to keep him: The Yankees probably can't get what they'd consider fair value for him in a trade and they don't want to give him away.
Some in the industry no longer believe Frazier is the kind of mega-prospect that would start a package of players to trade for a big-time pitcher. For instance, one scout from an opposing team said at the last trade deadline: "He's not a player that's going to be a marquee type."
Maybe, but there's still value there. That's why the Yankees figure to get plenty of buy-low overtures this winter as teams look for cheap, dynamic hitters. Frazier is not arbitration-eligible until 2021 and won't be a free agent until 2024.
If the Yankees want an additional outfielder, perhaps they could entice Cameron Maybin to return. That would let them pair Frazier with a prospect from their lower minors -- where their best talent currently resides -- and get something back for him.
Hey, they need inventory if they are going to acquire pitching this winter. What if Gerrit Cole and some of the other big free agent starters decide to go elsewhere? Frazier might find a home with another club and really show his talent, and the Yankees might benefit from a young arm.
Besides, even without Maybin, there's an outfield logjam if Gardner returns. Tyler Wade could serve as a useful spare outfielder as part of a utility role, too.
In that case, keeping Frazier would just mean more transactions once Hicks is healthy. Holding him to trade later likely would deflate Frazier's value, too.
At that point, the Yankees might as well keep Frazier and see what he could be.