The Reds are known to be entertaining offers on all of their players, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark spoke to an exec with a rival club that is convinced third baseman Todd Frazier is “legitimately out there” as a trade piece, albeit only for a significant return (links to Twitter). According to Stark, the Reds are prioritizing young talent that is Major-League-ready in trades for either Frazier or closer Aroldis Chapman. ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote yesterday (Insider subscription required) that he spoke to an NL evaluator and was told that the Reds “aren’t pushing Frazier at all,” so it doesn’t sound like the Reds feel any urgency to move him (not that one would expect an aggressive push to move a player of Frazier’s caliber at this point in the year with multiple seasons of club control remaining).
Stark doesn’t list a preference between position players or hitters — perhaps because Cincinnati doesn’t truly have one; talent is talent — but most of the Reds’ top prospects are on the pitching side of the equation. Outside of top organizational prospect Jesse Winker, the team’s best hitting prospects are mostly in the lower levels of the minor leagues. For a team that is open to dealing its third baseman, second baseman (Brandon Phillips) and right fielder (Jay Bruce), that leaves plenty of openings around the diamond — especially considering Billy Hamilton’s underwhelming bat to this point in his career. (That’s not to suggest that Cincinnati has given up on Hamilton, but rather that he’ll need to hit more than he has at some point.)
The price to acquire Frazier will — and should — be steep. The reigning Home Run Derby champ is set to turn 30 years old in February and is coming off a pair of seasons in which he has combined to bat .262/.322/.479 with 64 homers and well-above-average defense at third base. Frazier is also affordable, as his 2016 salary is locked in at $7.5MM by virtue of a two-year deal signed prior to the 2015 season. He’ll be arbitration eligible once again next offseason and is a free agent after the 2017 season.
The primary red flags with Frazier will be his woeful 2015 second half and his production (or lack thereof) away from the hitter-friendly confines of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. Frazier was hitting .284/.337/.585 with 25 homers prior to the 2015 All-Star Game, but he batted just .224/.270/.390 with 10 homers in 72 second-half games. Checking out his home/road splits, Frazier has batted .281/.341/.537 at home over the past two seasons compared to .247/.304/.421 on the road. Many players tend to hit better at home regardless of park factor, but the notable discrepancy between Frazier’s home and road production figures to at least be some cause for concern for teams that play in pitcher-friendly environments.
Regardless of home/road splits, Frazier is capable, at worst, of producing league-average offense (he has a wRC+ of 99 on the road) with an above-average bat at third base. Two years of that skill set alone would have some value, but considering that’s more or less the floor on Frazier, while the ceiling is that of a legitimate superstar, multiple big-league-ready assets will probably need to be in play for Cincinnati to seriously consider parting with him.
Chapman is projected to earn $12.9MM in 2016 by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. That will be Chapman’s final year of club control before free agency, so with one year of control at top-of-the-market money, he comes with less trade value than Frazier. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to envision a team being willing to part with an MLB-ready asset and another lower-level piece or two in order to secure a season of Chapman’s 100mph+ dominance.
Teams that could conceivably look for help at third base include the White Sox, Angels, Astros, Padres and possibly the Tigers, to name a few. There’s always a wide swath of teams seeking bullpen help — particularly when the reliever in question ranks among the game’s two or three best arms — and Chapman has recently been connected to the Yankees, Astros, Diamondbacks, Tigers and Red Sox (though Boston’s trade for Craig Kimbrel would certainly seem to take them out of the Chapman market).