Pittsburgh Pirates: No Need for Third Baseman Todd Frazier

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Yesterday, former Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, and New York Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier signed with the New York Mets.  Did the Pittsburgh Pirates miss an opportunity?

Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates biggest hole was at third base.  This mainly happened due to Jung Ho Kang being denied a visa in the off-season and missing the entire 2017 season.  In a way, the Pittsburgh Pirates were lucky. They had a suitable replacement in David Freese, or at least they thought.  Freese, who was once a solid player in the league, really showed last year that he is better suited coming off the bench.  One could see him to start to struggle when he was playing multiple games in a row.  By the end of the season he accumulated a 1.6 WAR, ranking him in the bottom ten among qualifying third baseman.

Many do not have an issue with David Freese being on this team.  However, no one wants to see him as the everyday starter again this season.  Meanwhile, not a word has come out about Jung Ho Kang returning.  So fans were hoping to see the Pittsburgh Pirates address third base this offseason.  Names have been thrown around like Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker, and even the idea of moving Josh Harrison to third and allowing Adam Frazer to play second.

Do They Need a Third Baseman?

However, it now seems likely that the Pittsburgh Pirates may look to platoon at third base.  Already having a right-handed hitter in Freese, the Bucs picked up left-handed hitting third base prospect Colin Moran.  Moran came over from Houston in the Gerrit Cole trade.  He has very limited big league experience, appearing in just 16 games so far.  Still, it seems likely that he will break camp with the big league team and be given an opportunity to lock in at least a platoon spot at third base, if not the everyday job.

Some are not thrilled with the idea of having an “unknown” prospect opening on a team that supposedly hopes to compete this season.  Fans were hoping to see an established veteran brought it.  They especially expected this with all the money saved in the McCutchen and Cole trades this offseason.  Anything less than a big league name is considered the Bucs being their normal cheap self.

This was very apparent last night when Todd Frazier signed with the New York Mets.  Frazier received a two-year contract worth $17 million.  His contract breaks down to an annual average of $8.5 million per season.  The immediate response on twitter was “$8.5 million per year for Todd Frazier, you’re telling me the Pirates could not do that?” There was an assortment of tweets like this, basically bashing the Pittsburgh Pirates for not signing the former home run derby champ.

2018 Pittsburgh Pirates

Would Frazier really make a difference on this team for the 2018 season?  There is a reason that he only got a contract for $8.5 million per season.  Last season, Frazier was very unimpressive, as he split time between the White Sox and the Yankees.  The soon to be 32-year-old had a slash line of .213/.344/.428.  The most glaring stat is his batting average and how low it was last season.  This was after he hit .225 in the 2016 season, both being significantly lower than his previous seasons.  His strikeout rate was also pretty high, being over 21 percent, something that has always plagued Frazier.  Also, his power numbers have started to regress.  His wRC+ last year was a pedestrian 108, with 100 being league average.

A few positives are that Frazier still has a good glove at third base. He had a 9.7 UZR/150 and accounted for 10 defensive runs saved last season.  Also, if home runs are a stat one looks at, he did have 27 last season.  Once again, 27 home runs are great, but not when you hit .213.  Furthermore, his BABIP was .226, meaning he did have some bad luck.  Also, he accounted for a 3.0 WAR, which is about double David Freese’s WAR.

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Frazier’s STEAMER projections for the 2018 season are very uninspiring.  His slash line projection is .228/.316/.438 with a 100 WRC+, which is right at league average.  Also, they expect his strikeout rate to rise going to 23 percent.  Are these the type of numbers that would be worth investing in?  Yes, for $8.5 million dollars it might be worth it for the production he will put out.  However, he is not the player he once was.  His numbers are very average now, he is a solid third baseman with some pop, but does not fit the mold that the Pirates look for in hitters.  He strikes out a good bit and does not make a lot of contact.  Meanwhile, they have a cheaper option who has more upside at this point in Colin Moran.