Editorials

Why the Mariners should, but ultimately won’t, trade for Clint Frazier

There are very few things in which I hold a consistent opinion, at least when it comes to baseball. I’m always open to new ideas and thinking about things in a way I haven’t before, with few possible exceptions. One of which is my personal fascination with Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier. I want him to be a Seattle Mariners outfielder, but I also don’t think he will be. Here is why.

The Seattle Mariners currently only have two true outfielders on their 30-man roster and only one of them, Kyle Lewis, has much of a future with the Mariners. But with Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop near MLB ready and potential superstars Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, the former of which may see time in 2020, they aren’t starved for outfielders. But you can never have too much depth at any position, especially impactful depth, including the outfield.

So when the New York Yankees sent down Clint Frazier, again, I couldn’t help but think the same thing I have the last two times it happened: get that man out of the Yankees organization. Frazier isn’t happy with his yo-yo career with the Yankees, constantly shuttling between the Yankees and AAA, even when he’s produced at the big league level. The 25-year-old got 69 games with the big club in 2019 and performed reasonably well, slashing .267/.317/.486 with 12 home runs and 108 wRC+. Those aren’t great numbers, but would be enough for a player with his pedigree and raw skill set to start in roughly 20 other organizations, but not the New York Yankees.

One of those roughly 20 organizations in which Frazier would quickly get the everyday opportunity he is looking for is your Seattle Mariners. Frazier checks a lot of boxes for the Mariners. He is a good athlete, has success in the high minors, and is a former first round pick and top prospect. If you don’t think the latter matters, consider J.P. Crawford, Marco Gonzales, Taijuan Walker, Mitch Haniger, Justus Sheffield, Jarred Kelenic, and Justin Dunn, all former first round picks who have found their way into the M’s organization.

In addition, Seattle has already raided the Yankees depth once before, acquiring Ben Gamel for pennies after the young outfielder performed but was blocked in the perpetually competing Yankees. Frazier is a different animal, but the point remains that Dipoto has targeted former first rounders who either need a change of scenery or that he believes his staff can help reach their maximum potential. Frazier could qualify in both areas.

From a scouting perspective, Frazier’s best tools are his 60-grade power and strong throwing arm. Frazier also has above-average foot speed, though he isn’t a burner and actually has a knack for barreling up the baseball. He does swing and miss a fair amount, though his 28.5% K rate in 2019 isn’t far off the MLB average. Defensively, Frazier has had a rough go, but should settle into being an average defender in right field. If Frazier can improve his walk rate by 2%, he carries the floor of a solid, everyday rightfielder on a good team. But the Yankees don’t trust him. And that, my friends is opportunity.

Well it could be, but unfortunately, the Yankees don’t seem interested in moving Frazier at all, despite what their actions scream. On Twitter, Baseball America’s Joe Doyle stated that the Tigers offered the Yankees Matt Boyd for Frazier and lower level prospects and were denied. This seems like a grave mistake, unless the Yankees truly believe that Frazier is a future regular for them. Now, we don’t know what the rest of the deal was so we don’t know if Frazier was the breaking the point. Or perhaps the Yankees just don’t like Boyd all that much?

But that leads us to our current problem: if the Yankees don’t like Boyd, who do the Mariners have that the Yankees would prefer? The answer, on the major league roster side of things at least, is that they don’t have a player they’d trade for Frazier that the Yankees would want. Which would seem to lead us to the idea of a prospect swap. This could work, as the Yankees acquiring a player with a similar upside to Frazier who is a year or two away from needing to be added to the 40-man roster could provide more flexibility. After all, the Yankees are churning through Frazier’s options quickly.

But the problem with this idea, at least on July 26th of 2020, is that the Yankees are World Series contenders now and with a pandemic sweeping the United States, having a solid player like Frazier in your organization seems like a good idea. And that is where the idea fall apart. Seattle isn’t going to part with Marco Gonzales for Frazier and the Yankees certainly wouldn’t part with him for the likes of Carl Edwards Jr. or Taijuan Walker. Perhaps a Mallex Smith and Brandon Williamson package would move the needle, but Williamson may be too valuable to give up for a player with Khris Davis upside.

Time will tell if Frazier is ultimately dealt. However, while I’d love to see Frazier get his chance to breakout in Seattle, it doesn’t seem like a realistic possibility, at least not at his time. But Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is creative so we can’t rule anything out.

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