Let me start off by saying, there is no doubt in my mind that Adam Frazier is a trade candidate for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His name has been mentioned during the Winter Meetings last off-season, leading up to the most recent trade deadline and by our own Gary Morgan more than once; including his first piece at our old site back in November of 2019. I even listed him as a tender to trade candidate in a recent arbitration article. He is a guy that probably could, and absolutely should, be moved by General Manager Ben Cherington and the Pirates at some point before his team control runs out, making him a free agent after the 2022 season.
So, let’s say the Cherington does pull the trigger this off-season and makes the conjecture surrounding Frazier’s trade a reality. What is the realistic value for a 2nd Baseman/OF that is entering his year 29 season, his second arbitration year of arbitration and is set to to make between $3.3 million and $5.2 million during this upcoming season? For this you have to take a look inside the numbers, as well as giving some consideration to similar trades that have occurred recently.
As as far as Frazier is concerned, in the equivalent of 4 MLB seasons with the Pirates, he has shown himself to be around a league average hitter (.275 AVG and 100 wRC+), with defensive upside (6 DRS IF/OF, 6 OAA 2B 2020 and 11 OAA 2019). He had also gotten some national recognition by being a finalist for a Gold Glove at 2nd Base two years in a row; finishing as the runner up both times. This past season he was set to earn $2.8 million in his first year of arbitration and slashed .230/.279/.661; adding 7 homers in the process. If extrapolated over a 162 game schedule this equates to around 19 home runs, which would be a career high.
The next step in this process was to find an example of comparable player being traded in the off-season. I didn’t have to look too far back in order to discover two that had taken place in recent memory; the first being when the A’s traded Jurickson Profar to the Padres just the past off-season. The other instance involved Logan Forsythe’s trade from the Rays to the Dodgers prior to 2017 season.
Profar had been the #1 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline back in 2012, but had struggled at times with his adjustment to the major leagues. In the two seasons before his second trade in as many years, Profar had batted .238 between Texas and Oakland, while combining for 40 home runs. His defense was exceptionally poor, as he posted a -6 DRS at shortstop with the Rangers and -15 DRS with the A’s at 2nd Base. When Oakland traded Profar to the San Diego Padres he had only one year of control left and was due $5.7 million in his final year arbitration, so the situation is a little different than Frazier’s, but I wouldn’t expect the return to be that much higher.
On December 2, 2019 the Padres sent Catcher Austin Allen, along with an eventual player to be named later, outfield prospect Buddy Reed, to the A’s for Profar. In 34 games and 65 at bats, the former # 25 Prospect in the system as of 2018, Allen had hit .215 with no homers and 4 doubles for the Padres the previous year, although he had torn up AAA to the tune of a .330 average with 21 homers before being called up. Reed on the other hand had ranked as high as the #13th best prospect the same year as Allen, but had not reached above AA at the time of the trade. During the 2019 MiLB season he slashed .228/.310/.338 with 14 homers.
The second trade I mentioned took place on January 23, 2017, sending Forsythe, to the Dodgers for 24 year old right hander Jose De Leon. In him time with the Rays Forsythe had batted .262 with a .752 OPS and 43 home runs over 3 season. As a defender who played al over the infield, with a little bit of outfield mixed in, he was adequate at almost every position. Overall his play was good enough for a WAR of 1.3, 4.6 and 3.5 compared to a 1.1, 2.6 and 2.0 for Frazier. He was also under team control for 2 years thanks to one year remaining on his contract with a team option for 2018, which the Dodgers ultimately picked up. For De Leon, while he was in the Dodgers organization he ranked as high as the #3 Prospect and moved fairly quickly through the system. In the year prior to being traded he pitched in AAA for the majority of the time, earning a 2.16 ERA and .938 WHIP in 16 starts. He also struck out 111 batters in 86.1 innings, resulting in him being called up to the big league club for 4 starts at the end of the season. He would put up a 6.35 ERA and a 1.529 WHIP across 17 innings of work. And for those that don’t trust ERA his FIP was a 6.97, so it all checks out.
Once again this is not a discussion as to if Adam Frazier should or should not be traded because it is most likely inevitable. It is just a simple exercise to see what the return for the two time Gold Glove Finalist could be, but not necessarily will be. A lot of different variables could affect this; such as trade market temperature, free agent availability at a similar position and with comparable performance, the motivation or desperation level of the team trying to acquire Frazier and the ability of Cherington to secure a favorable deal.
For now the Pirates sit and wait as there is still a decision to be made concerning Frazier’s arbitration before anything can formally be put on the books in this 2020-21 MLB off-season.