After acquiring Giancarlo Stanton, the New York Yankees have a prized trade chip in OF Clint Frazier. Should the Pittsburgh Pirates throw their hat in the ring?
Along with Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton represented one of the two biggest shoes that needed to drop before the hot stove season could really heat up. Well, those shoes have dropped, and now teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates may be able to benefit from the spare parts left in Stanton’s wake.
Namely, we’re talking here about OF Clint Frazier – the prospect who came over to the Yankees in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade with the Cleveland Indians. Frazier was rated as the top Yankees prospect and fifth-best outfield prospect overall in 2016. He had his first taste of the major leagues last year, enjoying early success before hitting a wall. His rookie season was eventually curtailed by injuries. Still, there was nothing shown in Frazier’s first season that gave any team doubt that he would likely reach his potential.
In either event, Frazier’s sudden availability could be tailor made for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who will have to face a future without Andrew McCutchen sooner rather than later. Though it woudl take some other reconfiguration of their outfield corps, it’s very rare that a talent like Frazier — just entering his prime years at a controllable, long-term rate — becomes available.
But, would the two teams line up as trade partners?
Profile and Performance
First, let’s delve into Frazier’s abilities. His pre-major league scouting report labelled him as a hitter with good hands and raw power. Noted prospect watcher Bernie Pleskoff believedd that Frazier’s best asset might be that power potential. From his report:
Scouts are fairly unanimous in their assessment of Frazier’s strength. Many feel he can become an annual 30 home run hitter once he establishes himself as a big league player. That would be a very welcome outcome
Frazier’s home run potential is maximized by his aggressiveness, a trait that some feel might eventually be an achilles heel. In his combined 395 at-bats at the Indians and Yankees’ Triple-A clubs, Frazier carried a 26.6 percent strikeout rate. By the time he was ready to graduate in the Yankees system, he was able to buoy that with a 11.6 percent walk rate. Still, Frazier’s overall skills at the plate prevent him from a feast-or-famine type of player.
In 39 games/142 PAs with the Yankees, Frazier fell back into some bad habits, with a 30.2 percent strikeout rate alongside a low 4.9 percent walk rate. Whether or not these figures can be attributed to a young player seeing major league pitching for the first time remains to be seen.
Let’s include Frazier’s minor league statistics as well to give the full scope of Frazier’s professional baseball career to date:
table courtesy of Baseball Reference
The case for Frazier
- Frazier is just beginning his career at 22 years old. His time with the Yankees in 2017 was a tantalizing glimpse, and he was showing signs of adjustment, albeit incremental, before he was shutdown.
- Though he can play both corner outfield spots, his best position is likely left field, which would suit the post-McCutchen Pittsburgh Pirates perfectly.
- For a power-starved team like the Pirates, a hitter with potential for 30-plus home runs would be more than welcomed. It’s easy to imagine Frazier and Josh Bell next to each other in the Pirates’ lineup.
The case against Frazier
- It would take almost a radical re-thinking of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization to bring Frazier in. Bringing in an outfielder to replace McCutchen is one thing, but a move for Frazier would also necessitate decisions to be made on Gregory Polanco and Austin Meadows, to say nothing of Starling Marte. The club has been dogged in its thinking towards Meadows, who has yet to impress at the Triple-A level. The Pirates are also locked into Polanco’s services until at least 2021. A Frazier addition would create a suddenly crowded outfield. The subsequent need for the Pittsburgh Pirates to deal another outfielder would put the club at a disadvantage in terms of getting fair value back.
- Being a headline prospect who many teams would covet, the price the Yankees will place on Frazier figured to be very high. With an everyday lineup that most teams would envy, the Yankees would be after quality, controllable starting pitching. Speaking of which..
What it might take
If it’s controllable starting pitching the Yankees are after, the Pittsburgh Pirates can offer that in Gerrit Cole.
We’ve previously seen the Twins check in on Cole’s availability, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently reported that the Washington Nationals gauged the Pirates’ interest as well. Cole is clearly drawing attention, and the Pirates are in the driver’s seat.
Realistically, Cole plus a high to mid-tier prospect could be enough to get a deal done. However, much like the Pirates would need to re-think their outfield in light of a Frazier deal, the club would also need to re-think it’s rotation for the foreseeable future. There seems to be a solid set of talent coming up in the next wave of Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects, led by Mitch Keller, but the rotation might see lean intervening years if Cole departs.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates take an honest accounting of their chances over the next two years and beyond, then they should absolutely make a play for Clint Frazier. Having made it to the major leagues at the tender age of 22, Frazier would provide the Pirates with a power bat in his prime.
That type of addition can be trans-formative, and perhaps that is exactly what the Pirates need.
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