The Time for Frazier is Now
Photo Courtesy of Ken Blaze – USA TODAY Sports
As the entire Yankee Universe is aware by now, the Yankees did not go out and supplement the current roster at the trade deadline. No matter what I or anyone else thinks, Brian Cashman as said that true upgrades either were not available to the extent that outside observers thought, or in cases in which upgrades were available, the prices to acquire said upgrades were too expensive to be worthwhile. Cashman has stated that he believes upgrades to the current roster are available within the current organization. While much discussion has focused around the growing cast of thousands that currently reside on the Injured List, very little time has been spent talking about a player who has been conspicuously absent from the roster in recent weeks: Clint Frazier.
Frankly, I am pleasantly shocked that Frazier is still a Yankee. Based on the fact that Frazier was passed over for promotions at least twice in the last 5 weeks, it was widely assumed that he had fallen in the Yankee pecking order. I, for one, thought it was a dangerous game of chicken that the Yankees were playing by keeping Frazier in AAA prior to the trade deadline – if Frazier was going to be dealt, why keep him in Scranton, risking his body to injury when that body could either provide value to the Major League roster, or gain value in a prospective trade? That decision indicated two things to me: first, the Yankees were serious about trying to help Frazier develop defensively. Secondly, the Yankees were really serious about only being willing to deal Frazier in a deal for a valuable, controllable player. Add it all up, and Frazier is still here.
So what has changed? While Frazier has presumably gotten some defensive coaching in low-stress situations, I doubt that he is a finished product yet on that side of the ball. However, the Yankees are riddled with even more injuries than just 2 weeks ago. Brett Gardner, DJ Lemahieu, and now Luke Voit are all on the shelf. Despite the fact that Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin continue to acquit themselves admirably and both Aarons (Judge and HIcks) remain healthy, there is room on the Yankee roster for a 5th outfielder.
There was no sense to having Frazier on the roster if he couldn’t get regular at-bats. The Yankees now have some temporary roster space with all of the injuries. Currently, the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and Gio Urshela manning the corners of the infield, with Tyler Wade, Kyle Higashioka, and one of Tauchman or Maybin riding the bench. There is room in the lineup for another big bat.
Frazier is exactly that type of bat. Even without the injuries, Frazier has always been touted by scouts when swinging the big stick, and he was finally proving it this season during his extended look in the 1st half. Whatever his issues on defense, Frazier provided the Yankees with 191 ABs in which he produced 116 wRC+ and 121 OPS+ while slugging 11 HR. Whatever your favorite flavor of metric is, Frazier is a well above-average hitter right now, and the Yankee lineup could sure use it given their recent struggles.
How could the playing time work out? Frazier can get at least 3 starts per week at DH while Voit is on the IL, and he can even pick up a start per week in the outfield so that he can continue his defensive development without really hurting the big league club. And when LeMahieu returns? Allow Urshela and LeMahieu to split time at 3B, while LeMahieu picks up a couple of games a week while Encarnacion DHs. LeMahieu can also get a game or more per week at 2B if the Yankees want to ensure that both Torres and Didi get the proper amount of rest.
Once Gardy gets healthy, the roster crunch will really begin. There is little reason to keep 6 outfielders on the big league roster. Maybin must stay on the big league roster, otherwise the Yankees would have to DFA him. Of course, the Yankees could send Frazier or Tauchman back to AAA in that instance. Realistically, all would be on the roster in September when rosters expand. That is a discussion for another time, as Gardy is not yet healthy.
Either way, the Yankees are wasting potential value right now by keeping Frazier in AAA. Clint Frazier’s next game should be in pinstripes.