The White Sox are “taking a close look” at Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). The 29-year-old is amidst a stellar campaign that earned him his first career All-Star nod last night.
Chicago surely isn’t alone in taking an interest in Frazier, who has a .326/.393/.468 line (139 wRC+) through 346 plate appearances this season. He broke into the majors in 2016 and immediately settled in as a fairly productive, high-contact bat. Over his first three-plus seasons, Frazier’s ability to put the ball in play resulted in league average offense (.279/.342/.420), despite lacking impact power. He slumped to a .230/.297/.364 mark during last year’s shortened season but has more than rebounded during this season’s first half.
In actuality, Frazier’s true talent level probably hasn’t bounced around as much as those numbers would suggest. Because he specializes in making contact, his production is more dependent than most players on ball-in-play results. Last season, Frazier’s BABIP fell to .246; this year, it’s sitting at a sky-high .361. Over the course of his career, Frazier has a more ordinary .312 BABIP, and it’s fair to presume it’ll settle in around that mark moving forward.
Frazier has made some modest process improvements this season. His contact rate is up nearly four percentage points, to a career-high 88.6%. He’s traded in some grounders for a few extra line drives. But Frazier hasn’t started hitting the ball with dramatically more authority. His hard contact rate is in the 4th percentile leaguewide, while his barrel rate (essentially how often a batter hits the ball hard at an optimal launch angle for power) is in the 3rd percentile, per Statcast. All in all, Frazier likely isn’t all that different than the player he was entering 2021.
That’s not to say he’s not a quality player. As mentioned, Frazier has an established track record of solid work at the plate. He’s a career .282/.345/.422 hitter, six percentage points better than league average by measure of weighted runs created. Advanced defensive metrics have suggested he’s an average or better gloveman at second base, and he’s rated highly as a corner outfielder when asked to man the grass.
In addition to his solid play on the field, Frazier’s an eminently affordable target for contending clubs. He’s making just $4.3MM this season (exactly half of that remains due from now through the end of the year) and is controllable next year via arbitration. He’ll certainly be in line for a nice raise given his production this season, but even a salary in the $8MM – 9MM range in 2022 would be more than reasonable for a player of his caliber.
A year and a half of Frazier’s services would hold a lot more value to a contender than it would for the rebuilding Pirates. Pittsburgh isn’t making the playoffs this season, and they’re not expected to next year either. There’s little reason for the Pirates not to take offers on Frazier (as they did over the offseason) and he looks like a virtual lock to wind up elsewhere before the July 30 trade deadline.
It’s not hard to see the appeal for the White Sox. Second baseman Nick Madrigal is out for the season after undergoing hamstring surgery, and the Sox have been relying on Leury García and Danny Mendick since he went down. Prospect Jake Burger has gotten work at second in the minors and was called up to make his MLB debut today. It’s unclear, though, whether Chicago would feel comfortable turning to Burger, whose more natural position is third base, at the keystone during a pennant race.
The White Sox have also been tied to Eduardo Escobar over the past couple weeks. An Escobar trade remains a possibility (and, as Heyman notes, would surely require a lesser prospect package than the one required to land Frazier), but other teams have jumped into the bidding for the Diamondbacks infielder in recent days.