Before the 2020 season got underway, I wrote an article in July about what the Pirates should do with utility man Adam Frazier. Now, with the shortened season in the rearview mirror for Pittsburgh, I thought it might be time to evaluate trade chips and the future of the organization once again.
Frazier, the 28-year-old lefty, is under contract in 2021 with $4.25 million set to go his way. In 2022, he’s arbitration eligible before becoming an unrestricted free agent in his age 31, 2023 season. Suffice it to say, by the time that latter date rolls around, he won’t be a Pirate any longer, regardless of what management does with him in the near future.
Some have said that Frazier has the hitting tools to become a batting champion in the National League. Whether or not that’s true, we have to wonder if that’s a worthy player of holding onto right now. After all, the value of batting average as an independent stat seems to dwindle with each passing year, if not quicker.
So, for a player who’s been as streaky as Frazier, holding out that his offense comes around in greater abundance might not be the prudent thing to do. This season his offensive numbers were the worst we’ve seen. Take it with a grain of salt if you’d like, given the circumstances, but the fact is Frazier is aging and generally speaking, players have had their best years by the time they’re 29 — which he will be in two months.
Over 58 games with the Pirates, his slash line was .230/.297/.364 for an OPS of .661. Unsurprisingly, his wRC+ was below average at 81. He finished with a 0.6 fWAR this season, thanks in no small part to his defense. Those numbers aren’t becoming of a player set to earn four-and-a-quarter million in the upcoming season, especially when you consider one win per year is worth about four million dollars in the current climate.
That leaves the front office with work to do, in all likelihood. The Pirates have a crowded middle infield from an organizational standpoint already, and for a team crafting for the future, it doesn’t much benefit them to have an aging average hitter clogging up the lines. But, as is the problem much of these days for Pittsburgh, moving him might be a challenge.
His price tag isn’t exorbitant, although it is a bit steep for the Pirates, given his production. That means a larger market, higher spending team might be willing to saddle up and pay that amount, thus giving the Pirates a bit more flexibility, both from a financial standpoint, as well as a personnel standpoint.
It’s hard to calculate what Frazier might fetch in the trade market, but it’s not inconceivable to think that the Pirates could garner a return that includes a mid-level minor leaguer. Before the deadline this season, the Pirates were able to turn a struggling Jarrod Dyson into some additional international money, so it shouldn’t be too challenging to get that return, at the very least. I’m not saying the Pirates should ship Frazier out for a bag of chips, but many of the returns that the Pirates would be able to attract would likely be worth it to free up financial and player space.
I’m sure fans are tired of hearing about the Pirates freeing up more money on an already minuscule budget, but that’s the way it is in Pittsburgh. And because that’s the way it is, the spending on an offensively middling player like Frazier could be much better used elsewhere.