The Yankees have optioned outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple-A, tweets Kristie Ackert of the NY Daily News. Frazier’s demotion will clear a spot on the active roster for the newly-acquired Edwin Encarnacion.
The demotion represents the continuation of a rocky Yankees stint for the 24-year-old Frazier, who has long been the victim of roster crunch despite adequate performance at the MLB level. To be sure, Frazier has not disappointed in his MLB career, which has spanned parts of three seasons: his career OPS sits at a tidy .793, including a career-best .855 this season. His outfield defense has certainly lagged behind the bat, but defensive struggles are not uncommon for young outfielders, and Frazier has demonstrated that his bat-first profile can play at the Major League level.
Despite that promise, Frazier has managed to appear in just 106 MLB games since debuting in 2017. In years past, Frazier has been blocked by the Yankees’ prolific outfielders, but the team’s injury woes have allowed Frazier to receive 186 ABs in 2019. At this point, though, it appears that time is running out on that expanded opportunity.
The acquisition of Encarnacion, coupled with the impending return of outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, has made it clear that Frazier’s opportunities with the big league club will be even further limited for the remainder of the season. With Encarnacion’s addition to the lineup, it appears that the most likely lineup configurations will feature Stanton and Judge joining Aaron Hicks in the outfield, leaving Frazier without a spot in the starting nine.
With that in mind, it would appear that Frazier’s best chance to catch on in the Bronx would come as a depth outfielder; however, a player with Frazier’s combination of youth, performance, and prospect pedigree would perhaps provide more value to the contending Yankees as a trade chip, especially considering the presence of Brett Gardner and Cameron Maybin, each of whom has provided serviceable—if unspectacular—outfield production in the absence of the Bombers’ stars.
As a result of his limited opportunities, Frazier has often been the subject of trade discussions, a trend that will no doubt continue given the Yankees’ need for—and interest in—starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer, and Zack Wheeler have all been linked to the Yankees, and Detroit’s Matt Boyd has also drawn attention as a trade candidate. Of course, it remains to be seen just how much the Yankees could fetch for Frazier, but it seems that he could be a key piece in a trade to bolster the rotation. Of course, there’s no indication that Frazier’s demotion is the precursor to such a move, but speculation will certainly abound as trade season approaches.