There have been rumors recently about the Yankees dealing for Gerrit Cole with Clint Frazier going the other way. As a general rule, I think trading a position player for a pitcher is a bad idea. The shelf life and uncertainty of health makes pitchers a little too risky of an investment for my tastes. That’s in case I were ever a general manager and I was asked my opinion…
You don’t even have to go through rosters of all Major League teams over the past decade or so to see how fragility among hard throwers can derail even the most optimistic outlooks. Just take the Mets:
Imagine you were the General Manager of the Mets in 2013 and I offered you Anthony Rizzo for Matt Harvey? What if two years later I offered you Charlie Blackmon for Noah Syndegaard? What if, during the ’16 season I offered you Aaron Hicks for Steven Matz?
Never mind. Don’t answer. In fact, if you’re a Mets fan, don’t even think about it.
But that’s in general. There are a few things about Clint Frazier’s situation we need to consider.
First, barring a severe injury to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton or Brett Gardner, Frazier is going to be a bit piece through 2018 at best. The options are a) have him ride the pines in the Bronx, where – because he can’t play center field, he’s actually less valuable than Jacoby Ellsbury. Or b) send him to Scranton, which is risky. If he plays well, who cares he’s supposed to, but if he falls flat on his face, he’s gone as an asset.
Two, even if you want to wait out ’18, buy out Gardner for $2 million and make Frazier your 4th outfielder in ‘19, he may not turn out to be a significant contributor anyway. It’d be tough to argue that a starting pitcher, 3rd baseman or 2nd baseman who can help right now wouldn’t be worth giving up a future 4th OF for.
Here’s where we need to forget our amateur “eye tests”: Because I also see a corner outfielder who can run, throw, and turn around a 97 mph fastball and put it into the Yankees bullpen. (And also give Meredith Marakovits a sideways look when she asks dumb questions…that’s my favorite part of Frazier.) But here’s the reality:
Frazier was the 5th overall pick of the 2013 draft. The previous ten 5th overall picks have averaged 1.3 WAR per year. For those of you who aren’t WAR aficionados, that’s a tick above a minor leaguer.
And what makes this interesting, and spoiler alert – this is why you need to trade Frazier now – is the disparity of performance among the previous ten 5th overall picks:
Ryan Braun and Buster Posey are building borderline Hall of Fame resumes – both have averaged 4.1 seasons over their careers. The other eight players you wouldn’t even know were gone from your roster if someone didn’t tell you.
Chris Lubanski, Mark Rogers, Brandon Morrow, Matt Wieters, Matt Hobgood, Drew Pomeranz, Bubba Starling and Kyle Zimmer – all due respect to their families – would be much more useful in attaining a different player from a different team than if they stayed on your team. (I’ll give Pomeranz a pass – he’s young and probably getting better.)
I know it’s far from perfect information for evaluative tool, but if you use it, basically there’s a 20% chance Frazier can be an All-Star level player and an 80% chance he’ll be someone you’ll never miss. Combine that with the fact there are very few scenarios in which he can help the Yankees anytime soon, and you have to deal him now. Even if he does become an All-Star, will he be better than Judge, Stanton or Gardner* this season, and Judge/Stanton beyond? Highly doubtful.
A starting pitcher just became less necessary with C.C. re-signing but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Both 3rd and 2nd base are open right now pending the health, performance and organizational plans for Gleyber Torres.
There are options there. Make the move now while Frazier still has value.
*On another note: As a card carrying member of the Brett Gardner might be the most underrated Yankee ever club, I ask you to consider this:
Braun and Posey are having borderline Hall of Fame careers, averaging 4.1 WAR per season. Gardner has averaged 4.5 over his last seven full seasons and has the highest WAR among left fielders since 2010. Never mind Frazier ever being as good as Judge or Stanton – he’s not going to be as good as Gardner.