This is one of those deals where everyone loves it for the value and likes it for the probable improvement of the Mariners overall, but isn’t totally blown away (we’ll save that for big money being spent on a certain free agent Cy Young award winner).
Adam Frazier is many things to many people. What we’re all assuming he’ll be, as a baseline, is an everyday fixture in the lineup who will have a solid on-base percentage, ideally hit for a high average, and play quality defense wherever he ends up. I think best case scenario is that Frazier winds up as a Super Sub, who plays a lot of infield, a little outfield, who hits for around .300, rarely strikes out, and is involved in a lot of run scoring because he’s on base so much.
What’s likely is that Frazier is our starting second baseman next year, pairing with J.P. Crawford to really strengthen our infield up the middle, while we go out and find a splashier, more powerful third baseman to replace (and hopefully improve upon) what Seager was able to do.
At the very least, Frazier will be a step up from Dylan Moore, if it comes to that. Regardless, it’s hard to look at this deal and not expect improvement upon the floor of the 2022 Mariners, from where we were this time a week ago. And all we gave up were two prospects I’ve never heard of (outfielder Corey Rosier, and lefty reliever Ray Kerr). I think I read Frazier is in his final Arb year and will make around $8 million.
The downside is: only one year of Frazier. The upside is: not a lot of salary, not a huge cost in trade, is a veteran hitter who should slot into the top half of the lineup somewhere (sixth at the very lowest), and this is the first step of the Mariners trying to win now in 2022.
Of course, there’s more to the “downside” ledger: namely, all the potential pitfalls. He’ll be 30 years old in a couple weeks. He’s coming off of EASILY his best season as a pro. He’s never been a power bat (10 homers is the most he’s hit in a season; he managed only 5 in all of 2021). He hit .305 last year, but only .267 after being traded to the Padres midseason (in the midst of a failing playoff chase). There’s a real chance that he falls right back to Earth with the Mariners. Oh sure, he’ll be extra motivated – heading into his free agency year – but lots of motivated players have joined Seattle only to fall on their faces. Is he another Chone Figgins or Dee Gordon? Those are players who were deemed to be line drive specialists who should “play well” in our stadium, only to play pretty fucking poorly. It’s okay if he’s not a power guy, because you really have to be a super powerful guy to make it in Seattle. But, if he starts rolling over on those erstwhile line drives, I don’t think he has the speed to leg out a lot of infield singles. He has a high of 10 stolen bases (in his 2021 season), so take that for what it is.
I kinda think it’s foolish to expect him to join the Mariners and be a .300 hitter. My hunch is he’ll hit closer to the .230 guy he was in COVID-shortened 2020. With that, his on-base percentage won’t look so hot. And then what have we done? He’s a career .313 BABIP hitter, but in 2021 his BABIP was .339, fuelled by a .359 he hit with the Pirates before being traded. From 2017-2020, his BABIP was .298. That made him anywhere from a 1-2 WAR player, compared to the 4-WAR player he was in 2021. What’s more likely to be true: he has taken the next step in his development to be an All Star for the foreseeable future, or he had one lucky season and the Padres parlayed that into a couple of middling prospects?
I’m not holding my breath, is the point. I’m also not expecting this to be the final move the Mariners make this offseason. To suggest otherwise – even in a hypothetical thought experiement – is idiotic. Obviously the M’s are going to make other moves to improve the big league ballclub (spoiler alert: they already have!).
I see Frazier as Abraham Toro insurance. Frazier bats lefty and figures to get the first crack at locking down an infield spot. If Toro somehow makes it through this offseason still on our roster, I would expect him to vie for a backup job, while getting some defensive work in the corner outfield spots. Maybe he platoons with Frazier at second. Maybe he comes to Spring Training on fire and wins the job outright (forcing Frazier into that ideal Super Sub role I mentioned earlier). Maybe Toro wins the third base job because we couldn’t find anyone better via trade or free agency. Or, maybe Toro is trade bait. Who knows?
All I know is, on paper, the Mariners are probably better than they were a week ago. They might even already be better than they were in 2021. Wouldn’t that be nice?