Don’t Be So Eager to Trade Clint Frazier

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It’s funny to think about now, but when the Yankees traded for Clint Frazier at the deadline in 2016, it really marked a turning point for the direction of the Yankees. The front office admitted it wasn’t very good, and sold all of its pieces of value. The Yanks received Frazier as the centerpiece of the Andrew Miller trade, which came only a few days shipping Aroldis Chapman to Chicago for Gleyber Torres. In a matter of days, the team completely revitalized its farm system.

Frazier stood right at the center of it all. After the trade, Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the second-best prospect in the NYY system. Keith Law had him ranked third (subs req’d), behind Torres and Blake Rutherford. Over at River Ave Blues, Mike Axisa said this:

Having followed Frazier these last few years, I’m comfortable saying right now that he immediately takes over as the Yankees’ top prospect. He has premium bat speed and power from the right side to go along with center field caliber defensive tools. Frazier has the kind of talent that could potentially make him the offensive cornerstone the Yankees have been lacking since Robinson Cano left.

Point of all of this is to say that Clint was immediately viewed as one of the next big pieces of the Yanks. After a wave of successful player development that accelerated the timeline for contention, Clint was viewed as the next young Yankee to follow Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Gleyber Torres.

This year, though, all of that has changed–and it seems as if many fans and analysts have written Clint out of the future entirely. Here is a sample of some recent headlines, following his recent spat with the media:

  • Clint Frazier is killing his trade value in Yankees’ agony (New York Post)
  • MLB trade rumors: 6 Yankees who could be targets, including Clint Frazier, Domingo German (NJ.com)
  • What should Yankees do with Clint Frazier? Sit him? Demote him? 4 options (NJ.com)
  • Clint Frazier’s immaturity may cause the Yankees to trade him (Fansided)
  • Yankees MLB Trade Rumors: Clint Frazier, Madison Bumgarner, Max Scherzer (Metro)

That, of course, is just a sampling. It’s all over Twitter and WFAN. SNY’s Andy Martino recently reported that the Yankees will be aggressive in trying to move him. In fact, they’ve done so in the past already. Remember, the Yanks tried to move Frazier to Pittsburgh for Gerrit Cole after 2017.

There’s good reason for this, of course, as the Yanks need a pitcher and Clint would be traded from a position of strength. Not to mention, as much as I might defend Frazier after the media episode, it’s impossible to deny that it matters to the team. That’s fueling a willingness (even an eagerness) among many fans to see Frazier gone.

That is a mistake, because lost in all of the noise is a simple fact: Clint Frazier is good, and the Yankees might need to rely on him as soon as next year.

Let’s quickly break this one down.

Clint Frazier is Good, Actually

I’m going to repeat this one again, saying it a little louder for the folks in the back: Clint Frazier is good. Yes, I know that he’s been the worst defender in baseball according to virtually every advanced defensive metric. And yes, it’s clear that he and the Yankees (let alone the media) haven’t always had the simplest of relationships. But again: the kid can play.

He’s hitting .276/.328/.523 (120 wRC+) on the season with 11 home runs in 174 at-bats. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s one every 15 at-bats, more or less. Over a full season (about 550 at-bats, give or take), that amounts to about 35 home runs.

That’s about as good as any of us would have hoped for from a 24-year-old coming off a lost season. It’s important sometimes to take a step back and remember that, because, as we know, a whole lot of noise has surrounded Frazier so far. But he can play. He really can.

This is going to be an example of an Arbitrary Endpoint, but take a look at these two stretches Clint has gone on:

  • April 6 to April 22: .345/.361/.707 (176 wRC+) with 6 home runs in 61 plate appearances (just under 50% of his hits went for extra bases)
  • June 2 to June 11: .323/.389/.548 (145 wRC+) with 1 home run in 36 plate appearances (50% of his hits during this stretch have gone for extra bases)

Now, small sample sizes and arbitrary endpoints and all, but bear with me a second. That first stretch came when the Yanks were getting more bad news each day and were ravaged with injuries. It’s not an exaggeration at all to say that Clint carried the offense for those three weeks. He was essential.

The second stretch actually began the night of the defensive meltdown on Sunday Night Baseball against Boston. I don’t know about you, but I think that is mighty, mighty impressive to do in response to the media firestorm, fan backlash, and wave of trade rumors. It’s impressive. Even Brian Cashman agrees, saying:

“Regardless of all that [turbulence], if you decide to go the other way and fight back and push through and create turbulence, at the end of the day, your performance is going to speak for itself. The one thing that’s been really exciting is how he’s played since that. He’s really swung the bat well.”

Cashman is right. It is exciting to see Frazier respond this way, and it should not go unnoticed by fans, even those more inclined to remember a single bad defensive night than a stretch of success.

The Yankees Will Need Him in 2020

It’s clear that Clint can hit. Those numbers above (including his season total, not just my endpoints that make him look especially good) are legit numbers. That would probably make trading him easier, but it’s worth remembering that while the Yankee outfield seems full, it really is not.

This is something that came up repeatedly when the Yankees were not linked to Bryce Harper all winter: the outfield is full. That’s not true. Don’t believe it. It’s now been two straight years the Yankees have gone into the season with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Brett Gardner as the top 4 outfielders vying for 3 positions. It’s now been two years where the Yanks have had to rely on AAAA players like Mike Tauchman and Shane Robinson for extended periods.

Next year, Brett Gardner will likely be gone, erasing the imaginary outfield logjam and opening up more playing time for Frazier. He’ll be 25 and hopefully building off a healthier, consistent 2019 going into next year.

Now, you might ask if a player like Frazier, with a bad glove (even though I don’t think he’s as bad as we’ve seen, he’s never been a glove-first guy) is really suited for a 4th OF role. That would be a fair question. But it’s also fair to say that Clint’s clearly capable of being a plus MLB bat. If Clint hits like he has this year, that’s a player for whom any team would make room.

Besides, he’d get a steady dose of playing time with the way that the Yanks rotate players into the DH slot and with prescheduled off days. The idea that there’s no place for Frazier on the team is a misguided one at best.


This is all to say that the Yanks have something valuable in Clint Frazier. He’s proven himself capable of hitting MLB pitching at a high level, and there’ll be an open roster spot for him next year. That is all good. Very good.

Now, Frazier will certainly be an attractive trade chip. It makes sense as to why he’s at the center of every trade rumor involving the Yanks. It does. And the Yanks will need to upgrade their rotation, as we know. It does make sense to think Clint is the expendable piece.

But who do you get in return? If you look at Clint Frazier honestly, without distractions, what you see is a very capable young player. One not likely to be moved for a rental or a declining pitcher. In other words, Clint Frazier may be around for far longer than the trade deadline.

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11 Comments

  1. madrugador

    I’d rather see Florial not Frazier get traded. There is no guarantee that Florial ever develops the pitch recognition he’ll need to be a MLB player.

  2. I’m a big Clint fan, but if he brings back a really good SP I can see letting him go. Not a rental, controllable whether cheap and young (Bauer?) or older and expensive (Scherzer?). I’m not giving up on Clint for one October run.

    I have this weird belief – guys with the swag like him are the ones that drop the daggers in crunch time (he is just slightly behind DJLM with RISP). Gary Sanchez is similar in that way, he’ll drop the dagger on you (like the big double to take the lead in ALCS Game 4). I have years of Jeter telling me that idea is dumb. But, there’s also a guy who hit 3 HRs in a WS game influencing the thought.

    • No one had more swag than Reggie. He was also unlikeable by many of the fans and his own teammates. Reggie dropped daggers. I personally think most of what Clint likes is nonsense. That doesn’t matter at all. The bat is for real and he’s got plenty of backbone.

      The media shills can go pound sand. I’m team Clint.

  3. dasit

    trading frazier for a starter when they could have had corbin for nothing but $ would make me seriously cranky

  4. BigDavey88

    Frazier should stay. I’m only moving him for Scherzer. Maybe, but probably not for Stroman. Madbum can kick rocks.

    Frazier can hit and is showing he can HaNdLe dA bIg ApPLe. I do think the defense will come around and am not concerned about it.

  5. chip56

    Progression is not always linear. Guys don’t always bust out of the gate like Gary Sanchez did in 2016, sometimes it takes time. Sure, you run the risk of holding onto a player with promise for too long and having him turn into Kyle Schwarber; but I would rather make that mistake than deal a guy too soon and watch him become Josh Bell for some other team.

  6. The people who want to trade Frazier are the same people who wanted to trade Gary Sanchez and are the people who want to trade Andujar. Each situation is different, but there is a sect of media and fans that treat the MLB like MLB: The Show, if one thing goes wrong or you get sick of a certain player, just trade them, no big deal. These players are really good though! and they’re players to build around.

    Frazier is not a great outfielder, but he’s a much better LF than RF. Learning YS3 RF on the fly can’t be easy, but all I’ve heard is that he’s working everyday to get more comfortable out there.

    The Yankees have 2 large super-humans and an injury prone CF slotted to be the starting outfield for the next 5+ years. They all will need days off, there is a need for Frazier..he’s actually pretty good.

    • chip56

      “Yankees should trade Severino and Judge to the White Sox for Jose Quintana”

      I remember that being a huge thing after 2016 when Judge had a bad debut.

      Psst…Frazier is better now than Judge was then.

  7. Eustace

    Then there’s this, from Deadspin:

    The very first thing Yankees fans were told about Clint Frazier was that he was going to be good. Upon his acquisition from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller trade, Frazier was immediately ranked as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect.

    The second thing Yankees fans were told about Frazier was that he requested to wear No. 7, which is retired for Mickey Mantle. This was false, and Frazier received an apology from the team broadcaster who first made the claim.

    The third thing Yankees fans were told about Frazier was that he had no respect for the franchise, because his trademark long, red hair violated the team’s weird retrograde grooming policy. It didn’t actually run afoul of the policy—the club later confirmed that—but in spring training in 2017, then-manager Joe Girardi suggested he cut his hair short because it was becoming a “distraction.” He did so.

    Things have generally not gotten easier or calmer for Frazier since. He struggled in limited action in his rookie year, and his 2018 was ended at just 15 games by a serious concussion. Concussion recovery can be a dark, frustrating time, but while he was out, a Yankees broadcaster (a different one than made the false Mickey Mantle story) said on-air, “shame on Clint Frazier for not getting healthy.”

    Frazier thinks he’s been treated unfairly by the local media, and he’s sure got an impressive body of evidence in his young career to prove it.

  8. chip56

    I wouldn’t trade Frazier, I don’t think Cashman will either. Frazier has the ability to be one of the elite power hitters in this game and he was 100% right that there is a segment of the media that have appointed themselves the “protectors of the Yankee way” and jumped on him from the moment he got here because he had long hair and talked the talk. They were all too willing to jump at the first hint of trouble in his game.

    Screw them. They’ll all be denying they were the ones to jump on him when Frazier just keeps killing it.

    • All this. Unless the Yanks get Scherzer and Sevy comes back strong, I doubt they have enough to get past Houston.

      Giants can trade Bumgarner somewhere else. Stroman is a solid meh.

      JMO, Andy Martino is the absolute worst in a field of MSM that has almost no credibility. He should never be quoted for anything other than satire or derision.

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