Clint Frazier seems to be going nowhere in the New York Yankees organization. Earlier this week, he was a victim of the numbers game and was demoted to triple-A. Despite a .283/.330/.513 slash line in 53 games with the Yankees this season, he was the sacrificial lamb once Edwin Encarnacion was added to their 25-man roster.
After watching the video of Frazier’s scrum following his demotion, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between his and Marcus Stroman’s post-game comments from a few days ago.
Clint Frazier: It’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s never fun, especially with how much I felt like I’ve contributed to the team this year. pic.twitter.com/V3lxQ9f5EQ
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 16, 2019
On Tuesday, the question about trade rumours was broached with Stroman. He came back with a well-thought response, but alluded to the fact that there have been no contract extension talks.
Marcus Stroman says he loves Toronto and "everything about" Canada, yet it's clear he won't be surprised if he's traded
"It doesn’t seem like I’m going to be signed here to a long-term deal. It’s just something you have to come to terms with"#BlueJays
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) June 19, 2019
Frazier and Stroman are two guys from two different organizations who clearly see the writing on the wall. It would not shock me whatsoever if a trade took place between the Blue Jays and Yankees involving these two players.
As disappointing as it would be to see yet another Blue Jays pitcher shipped off to a division rival, perhaps this is a good fit for both parties. The Yankees bolster their starting rotation for two potential playoff runs. Meanwhile, the Jays get a young outfielder with five more seasons of team control.
At first glance, Frazier doesn’t really fit into the Blue Jays outfield depth chart. The Jays just locked up Randal Grichuk for five more years, so he’s not going anywhere in the immediate future. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has finally found his footing on this roster, albeit as a left fielder. Teoscar Hernandez isn’t standing in the way of any centre fielders further down the Blue Jays’ depth chart, but nobody’s challenged him for the position, either.
Frazier has played zero games in centre field at the Major League level but does have 286 games’ worth of experience patrolling centre field in the minors. Much like Hernandez, the bulk of Frazier’s time spent in the minors was as a centre fielder, believe it or not.
In that respect, if we’re stacking Frazier against Hernandez, Frazier is clearly an upgrade as a bat and as a centre fielder. That’s where a trade like this would make sense for the Blue Jays; if they envision Frazier as a centre fielder. The corresponding transaction would relegate Hernandez to the bench, send him down to the minors or maybe the Jays recoup some value and trade Teoscar away.
Frazier profiles as a corner outfield bat and unless he’s on the Major League roster, it doesn’t make sense to stash him down in triple-A where he has nothing left to prove. He was a victim of the Yankees’ roster crunch, but it’s crazy to think they had to demote an outfielder with a wRC+ of 118 to make room for Encarnacion.
A team like the Blue Jays can never have too much Major League talent, but in the next two to three years, where would someone like Frazier potentially fit in? Ideally, the Blue Jays would love to have a high upside prospect, but at some point, they have to stop stockpiling lottery tickets and acquire some Major League-calibre talent to replace the bodies going out the door.
The danger with any trade of this magnitude is settling for the best present-day package rather than taking the long view. The Blue Jays were somewhat guilty of this during the J.A. Happ trade last year. In retrospect, Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney seemed like bona fide big leaguers, but McKinney’s already been to the minors and back and Drury might be ticketed for a demotion any day now.
Frazier presents an interesting option for the Blue Jays because he fits in with the timeline of contention for this current position player core. At 24 years old, Frazier’s very close in age and experience to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Bo Bichette.
On paper, it’s tough to see the Blue Jays doing much better than someone like Clint Frazier (plus prospects) in exchange for Marcus Stroman. Frazier comes with some experience, his bat plays at the Major League level and the Blue Jays would find a spot for him somewhere on the diamond.
The Jays’ outfield picture has been fluid from month-to-month and none of the outfielders are locked into their positions. Gurriel Jr. could be moved back to the infield, the Jays may move Grichuk back into centre and perhaps they find a trade partner for Hernandez. Any of those moves would create an opportunity for Frazier to play every day with the Blue Jays.
He isn’t the most stellar defender in the outfield (who has been on the Blue Jays, really?), but Frazier’s bat presents a very intriguing opportunity for this rebuilding team. With 11 home runs to his name, that would put him among the Blue Jays team leaders in home runs and slugging percentage.
Maybe he doesn’t slot into the Blue Jays depth chart right now, but as we’ve seen over the last 12 months, this roster has changed drastically compared to last year. The current Blue Jays outfield alignment could look completely different come 2020 and may include a trade deadline addition like Frazier, for example.
Run this potential trade through a simulator and the Yankees likely come out as the winners of this transaction, but Stroman is looking like a luxury the Blue Jays can no longer afford. The Jays could do worse than getting Frazier back for a starting pitcher.
Heck, they’ve already have done worse.