Pittsburgh Pirates: How to Take Advantage of the Yankee Injuries
By Noah Wright
The New York Yankees just got hit with another injury, this time to middle infielder Gleyber Torres. He will join a laundry list of other players. But the Pittsburgh Pirates have an opportunity to take advantage of their injuries.
Recently, the New York Yankees announced that they will place middle infielder Gleyber Torres on the injured list. He’s far from the only Yankee currently on the IL. He will join Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, D.J. LeMahieu, Zack Britton, and Tommy Kahnle on the list as well. With this, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an opportunity to strike up a deadline deal with the Yankees.
Right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates have a few pieces that might intrigue the Yankees. The first being second baseman and utility man Adam Frazier.
Now, sure, entering play on Friday, Frazier only has a .511 OPS. But Frazier wasn’t all that bad in 2019. He was roughly a league average hitter, slashing .278/.336/.417 with 10 long balls, and 33 doubles. Overall, he came in with a 98 OPS+, 97 wRC+. He also provided some value as a base runner with +0.7 base running runs above average.
Frazier’s main calling card is his defense. Last year, he was exclusively used at the keystone. Through 1180.2 innings, the infielder had a +2.9 UZR, +4.6 UZR/150, 1.6 range runs above average, and +11 outs above average. His outs above average mark ranked 11th in all of baseball. Though he did have just -1 DRS, his overall body of work at second base was pretty decent. All told, he was worth 2.2 fWAR, making him a solid starting caliber MLB player, but nothing much else.
Frazier might have been used exclusively at second in 2019, but he has plenty of experience at other positions. He has 878.2 innings logged across all three outfield spots, and 1891 innings at shortstop throughout the minors. Although he hasn’t played much on the left side of the infield since coming to the big leagues, if he needed to play there, he could.
Frazier would be able to fill in basically wherever the Yankees need. However with both middle infielders out, their primary right fielder, and one of their left field capable players, Frazier would be a nice fit as he could play where their injured players usually were.
The Pittsburgh Pirates could also try and package Keone Kela in with Frazier. After all, they currently have Britton out for a bit, and will miss Kahnle for the rest of the year because of Tommy John surgery. Both were very reliable arms for the Yankees last year that were used quite often. The two set-up men threw 61.1 innings each.
Kela would make a nice backend duo with Aroldis Chapman, and would also fill in the role Kahnle left behind. Though he just came off the injured list, it wasn’t an arm related injury. Kela was on the COVID-specific injured list. But once he did return, he was still showing off 95-96 MPH fastball.
That fastball helped Kela have an outstanding second half of 2019. From July 24th to the end of the year, the right hander allowed just 1 earned run through 18 innings. Out of the 69 batters he faced, he struck out 22 of them, only eight of them got hits, and walked just eight. Kela induced ground balls at an outstanding 63% rate, which is great considering how hitter friendly Yankee Stadium can be. All told, he held opponents to a line of just .131/.232/.197.
Kela is a free agent after 2020, so he is a rental, and a player the Pittsburgh Pirates will be eager to move, but Frazier will have two more years of control after 2020, both being arbitration years. However, I think the Pittsburgh Pirates can get back something decent for the two.
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I would definitely ask about the availability of both Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar. Both are currently blocked at third base, the outfield and designated hitter in the long run. Out of the two, I think Andujar would be the most likely to be dealt.
It wasn’t long ago Andujar looked like he might be a long term option for the Yankees’ infield. In 2018, he finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .297/.328/.527, 27 long balls, with a 130 OPS+, 132 wRC+, and .364 wOBA. Among all Yankee rookies with at least 400 plate appearances, Andujar has the franchises’ 4th highest wRC+, 12th highest wOBA, and has the all time Yankee rookie doubles record with 49.
But Andujar’s defensive home is up for debate. In 2018, he served as the Yanks’ primary hot corner defender, but put up awful numbers. Those include -21 DRS, -16 UZR, -10.9 range runs above average, and -11 outs above average. He ranked bottom three in DRS, UZR, range runs above average, and 4th to last in outs above average.
Andujar lost pretty much all of 2019 due to shoulder surgery. In his place Gio Urshela had a breakout season of his own. Not only did he replace Andujar offensively, but he was really solid defensively too. Though Urshela hasn’t been as productive as he was in 2019, Andujar hasn’t been nearly as productive this year than to 2018. So much so he was optioned at one point.
The Yankees have experimented with Andujar in left field and first base. But with the emergence of Mike Tauchman, veteran stalwart Brett Gardner, Frazier, and Stanton in left, and Luke Voit having first base on lockdown, Andujar has been left positionless. However, he is fast enough that they could keep experimenting with him in left, as he put up a 27.7 feet/second sprint speed in 2018 (MLB average is 27).
Clint, on the other hand, has shown flashes of being able to handle major league pitching, but just hasn’t gotten a real shot at proving himself. The outfielder was acquired by the Yankees back at the 2016 trade deadline, along with Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen in the blockbuster Andrew Miller deal. Through 246 plate appearances in 2019, Frazier batted for a solid .267/.317/.489 line, blasted 12 long balls, racked up 14 doubles, and put together a 111 OPS+ and 108 wRC+.
It was the first time he got a good long look at the Major League level. But, like Andujar, Clint doesn’t have much of a glove. In 395.1 innings in both corner outfield spots, Frazier had -8 DRS, -5.2 UZR and -4.8 range runs above average.
While Frazier entered the season with no way of direct playing time, with Judge’s and Stanton’s injury, he’s found a way for somewhat consistent playing time this year. Plus Brett Gardner will be a free agent at year’s end. Unless they plan on bringing back the veteran outfielder as a 4th outfielder Clint should get the starting nod, which is why Andujar might be more available in trade talks.
While getting either Miguel Andujar and/or Clint Frazier in a trade involving Adam Frazier and Keone Kela would be a nice addition, I think the Pittsburgh Pirates should also get a prospect pitcher. Obviously, the Pittsburgh Pirates are not going to get back someone like Deivi Garcia, the 40th best prospect in baseball, and the Yanks best prospect, but I would try to get an arm with a lot of raw potential. Sort of how Tahnaj Thomas was in the Jordan Luplow/Erik Gonzalez trade. Regardless, if any team needs a guy who can play either middle infield or corner outfield, now is the time for the Pirates to shop Adam Frazier towards the Yanks.