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Knights in the Pros: What Frazier means to the Bronx Bombers

Homecoming will be sweeter with a playoff berth

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins
Frazier sure looks happy.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Our editor Aaron Breitman reported earlier today that Rutgers alum Todd Frazier had been traded to the New York Yankees. The Yankees severed ties recently with Chris Carter, a slugging first baseman and that opened the door for another move. In baseball Knights in the Pros round up, I suspected Frazier would be moved for the deadline, but did not think it would be this soon to a team this close to his hometown. Frazier was dealt along with relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Bronx Bombers for Tyler Clippard and prospects headlined by Blake Rutherford, a former first rounder.

Frazier’s Legacy

Todd led Rutgers baseball to their last conference title in 2007. He was Big East player of the Year and a first round draft selection, one of only three in Rutgers baseball history. He is the program’s all-time career leader in long balls and runs scored despite playing only three seasons. He set single season records in for homers, runs, doubles, total bases, and walks.

Frazier is still very much seen around campus, serving as an unofficial ambassador during national TV football games and events such as the dedication of the new baseball / softball practice complex. I’m sure Pat Hobbs would have loved to have Todd in Pinstripes for Rutgers Knight at Yankee stadium, but news during an otherwise slow time for college athletics can’t hurt either. At least Chris Ash met with another MLB star from Toms River, Al Leiter.

For those concerned about the pressure in front of the home crowd, Frazier did win the home run derby in his home ballpark when playing for the Cincinnati Reds. He is definitely a guy who has earned the title of legend everywhere he has been. And oh yea, he did lead Toms River East American to the Little League World Series title in 1998.

How this impacts the Yankee ... defense

The Yankees came into the season likely figuring they would be a year away from seriously contending due to a lack of pitching. And they could not have known how quickly the young guys would be coming along. So the plan was to have a platoon at first of Greg Bird (now out for the year) and Carter with Matt Holliday filling in as needed. Holliday is capable of playing first base but likely not every day or else we probably wouldn’t have seen the trade for Frazier or the signing of Carter in the first place. They want to keep Holliday's potent bat in the line-up as much as possible, so he will still be primary DH.

Chase Headley has had a resurgence at the plate but all I have heard is his defense is not what it once was. Though not confirmed, fanrag is reporting Headley will slide over to first base. Frazier played shortstop at RU, but with a strong arm and big body he has always been a corner guy at the pro level, best at third. It'll be interesting to see how manager Joe Girardi divvies up that corner infield playing time if it is not as simple as that. With Aaron Hicks still injured, Clint Frazier (no relation) got hot and why mess with Aaron Judge by putting him at first who has been Ruthian in his breakout season thus far?

How this impacts the Yankee ... Lineup

Todd Frazier is a proven slugger. Rumors are that the Yankee brass think Frazier has had some bad luck with his BABIP. Batting average of balls in play is generally thought of to be mostly about luck. Frazier’s overall batting average and BABIP is in the low .200 (.217 at one point recently) so its due for a correction, they think. Maybe he can move that avg up to the .240 range for the rest of the year, especially in a lineup where he won’t be pitched around and spend half his games in a hitter’s park. If he hits 10-15 more dingers down the stretch, you'd have to consider his inclusion a worthwhile investment, especially if they make the playoffs.

The one drawback is it adds another rightanded bat to the line-up. Being righty heavy at this point hence why the Yanks were previously rumored to be interested in Mets first baseman Lucas Duda or Athletics Yonder Alonso who may have offered more lineup balance, but Frazier surely provides more positional flexibility. The Yankees surely used this competition to drive the White Sox price down. Headley is a switch hitter, much stronger from the left side (.280) than the right side (2.08) in 2017, so they could platoon he and Holliday at first a bit.

How this impacts the Yankee ... Pitching

The Yankees just shored up their bullpen with this trade - which is important because their starters other than Luis Severino don’t give them a lot of innings. It also allows Chad Green to possibly move into injured Michael Pineda's rotation spot. The front office may have seen this as a cheaper option than something similar to what the Cubs gave up to get a top end starter (Jose Quintana). The Yanks really need a starter but the price for even a decent arm is going to be way too high, likely higher than Blake Rutherford alone. And you don’t want to get burned simply trying to get a 5th starter like the Mets did when they acquired Victor Zambrano, not realizing top prospect Scott Kazmir was already the better pitcher.

New York will just try to shorten the game and (out slug everyone) which this trade definitely helps with. Fans and people within the organization feel a lot better about Kahnle and Roberston for innings six and seven with the lead than a revolving door in the 6th and Tyler Clippard in the 7th. A friend of mine summed up who won the trade when he said well, “they got rid of Clippard which has to be a win”. Tyler has had a nice career but much like the Nationals organization and fans lost confidence in their guys, the boos rained down hard at the first sign of trouble with him on the mound in 2017. A change of scenery, he might do well for the next 10 days, and be moved again!

MLB: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins
Todd should see the field plenty.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond 2017: Yanks and Pale Hose

The White Sox are in close to a full rebuild. Frazier is signed only through this year and will become an unrestricted free agent so it made sense to get something back for him, especially a first round pick. Nowadays (unlike just 3 years ago), to qualify for compensation the qualifying offer has skyrocketed leading to many players taking it and the risk is that even if the player turns it down other teams are more hesitant to sign a player and surrender a first round pick. In short, trade your chips in July to be safe like the White Sox did.

Long term for the Yankees, they did give up Rutherford, but they have one of the strongest farm systems in baseball stocked a ton of young outfielders. He was only in single A at the moment and apparently they don't think he'd stick in center field which makes him less valuable. Major League baseball is in a period of transition with a juiced baseball and record homerun totals without steroids or greenies, so it makes sense that organizations should go for it now. The Yankees with a young stars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, should easily be able to fill outfield spots with their deep farm system and short porch in right field that attracts free agents.

Our friends at Pinstripe Alley had a slightly different take on the trade. The White Sox blog, South Side Sox did not even have Frazier’s name in the headline as they are clearly interested in the acquisition of Blake Rutherford. SB Nation at large, less biased than either side gave their grade, too.

How this impacts the rest of the July 31 trade deadline

With the spike in home runs, sluggers become less valuable on the trade market while pitchers are in shorter supply. With more than half the season gone and guys with twenty home run potential growing on trees, a thirty homer guy like Frazier is comparatively less in demand. The rest of the way one guy hits around 10 more while Todd hits 15 more. That may not be statistically significant over the last 65-70 games.

The Red Sox have a desire to add a third baseman also and Frazier was the biggest name available. Brock Holt has been playing 3rd but is able to play a multitude of positions, so it would have been easy to plug Frazier at 3rd and allow Holt to be a super utility man. If third base is still what they want, Giants Eduardo Nunez, the Mets Asdrubal Cabrera or T.J. Rivera, and Padres Yangervis Solarte seem to be the most likely. Or the Red Sox could go in a different direction entirely with other versatile players. The rest of the contenders don’t see to be as desperate for third baggers. JD Martinez, another big time right handed bat has also been traded.

The relief market is taking on a life of it’s own as the worst bullpen in the MLB, the Washington Nationals, has already gotten a lefthanded and righthanded stopper and they might not be done. The Colorado Rockies are looking for help and the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been awful as well. With Robertson off the market, other late inning relievers may be on the move like the Giants Mark Melancon (again if healthy), the Tigers Justin Wilson, Mets Addison Reed, Padres Brad Hand, and Pirates Tony Watson may be next. The Phillies Pat Neshek will surely be moved. There will be no stopping the market on relief after Robertson was the third domino to fall.

For Todd personally, it’s nice to play a half season nearby his family and friends in a playoff push and not just be waiting for the next 12 days for the phone to ring. And who knows, it could be more. Good luck to all at their next stop, moving isn’t always easy.

Ohio State v Rutgers
Frazier is already commonly seen around the Rutgers campus
Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images