This off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to trade Adam Frazier and it should be their top priority before they do any other major moves over this winter and here’s why.
Adam Frazier needs to be traded. There isn’t any getting around that. In my article talking about three things the Pittsburgh Pirates need to do this off-season, I stated that their first priority above all else was trading infielder Frazier. However, I wanted to go further into detail of why the Pirates need to move on from Frazier this off season, and stop waiting around to trade him.
For one, right now, Frazier, in no way, shape or form, helps the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates will enter 2021 with a similar goal to 2020 – prepare the future. Frazier is a career league average bat. The utility man carries a .273/.336/.413 line, .323 wOBA and 100 wRC+.
Last year, he got off to a slow start like he always does having hit .198/.234/.330 with a 50 wRC+. But then he picked it up in the second half finishing out hitting .271/.361/.402 with a 112 wRC+. He is a second half warrior as he always does much better in the second half than the first half, and I should also mention he’s only ever once posted a wRC+ of 100 or higher across at least 200 plate appearances. However, this kind of production isn’t irreplaceable for the future Pittsburgh Pirates either, which we’ll get into in a bit.
Now sure, he provides above average defense at multiple positions. At second base, he put up +4 DRS, +1.9 UZR and 0.5 range runs above average with the 2nd highest outs above average total at +6. In left field, he had +2 DRS, +1.7 UZR and 0.9 range runs above average.
Frazier doesn’t help achieve any of the goals the Pittsburgh Pirates are striving for, and his value as a trade chip is much higher than his value as the everyday second baseman who occasionally fill in as a corner outfielder for the Pirates.
Next, Frazier is taking away playing time from players who could potentially be parts of the future. 2014 first-round pick Cole Tucker did not do well in 2020, and that’s putting it lightly, but I’d rather give him a shot to prove himself under more normal circumstances than trot Frazier out there who isn’t going to be around the next time the Pirates are back in competition. Plus, if all Tucker needs to do is match a .320 wOBA and 95-100 wRC+, overall league average or slightly worse than league average numbers, then I would rather roll the dice to see if the switch hitter can replicate that.
My third point is that when the Pittsburgh Pirates are serious contenders again, Frazier will either be regulated to a bench role, or not even be on their roster entirely and leave in free agency. The utility man is only controlled through 2022. I estimated that the Pirates might be back in contention by 2023, which is a fairly optimistic outlook, but 2024 as a more realistic target.
Just look at the amount of middle infielders the Pittsburgh Pirates already have. Oneil Cruz is a shortstop prospect who’s future is probably the outfield because of the amount of other middle infield prospects the Pirates have. The true next shortstop for the Pirates is probably Liover Peguero who ranks as the 92nd best prospect in baseball per FanGraphs.
2020 first-round pick Nick Gonzalez looks like he could be an all-star second baseman. FanGraphs currently ranks him as the 82nd best prospect in baseball. That’s just the Pirates’ best prospects. Don’t forget about Ji-Hwan Bae who did outstanding at Bristol in 2019, slugger Rodolfo Castro, and players currently on the major league roster like the aforementioned Tucker and 2019 rookie standout Kevin Newman. That’s a lot of very young and potentially talented players for just two or three spots.
I am confident someone at least one of Tucker, Bae, Newman, or Castro can produce around .749 OPS, .323 wOBA, 100 wRC+, and roughly 2+ fWAR across an entire season, along with solid defense at multiple positions. At that point if you have multiple players who can replace Frazier’s overall contributions, then there is no point in keeping him around, and gives them no real incentive in pursuing another contract.
However, while keeping Frazier doesn’t help the Pittsburgh Pirates decide who’s part of the future and who isn’t, trading him will help bolster the farm, something else the Pirates need to do. Though he might not be worth much to the Pirates, he still carries value.
He would definitely be worth something to another team like the San Diego Padres, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, or Los Angeles Dodgers. Both the Dodgers and Padres could lose valuable utility men in free agency such as Enrique Hernandez for LA, and Jurickson Profar for San Diego. The Yankees constantly have injuries to outfielders like Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge, and could lose D.J. LeMahieu to free agency. The A’s could lose two middle infielders in free agency with Tommy LaStella and Marcus Semien. Unlike the Pirates, they don’t have a handful of players who can fill these crucial roles for a playoff team, and consistently produce league average results.
Frazier might not bring back a top 100 prospect, but that doesn’t mean he has no value. When the Pirates traded for Oneil Cruz, he wasn’t a top 100 prospect, and nor was Bryan Reynolds. Peguero was not a top 120 prospect and he’s now ranked at 92nd in less than a year.
Aside from needing someone to play the position, there really is no reason the Pittsburgh Pirates have to keep Frazier around. This should be a time to experiment with different players like Newman, Tucker, Kevin Kramer, and Will Craig, fringe guys who aren’t guaranteed a spot in the Pirates’ future, and keeping Frazier around as a regular only hurts guys like that. A good problem to have is too many good players, but you’ll never give yourself a chance to have that issue in the future if you don’t give fringe guys a shot. It all boils down to Frazier playing as a regular for the Pirates is much less valuable to the team, rather than if he was traded.