It’s a belated birthday present for Frazier, who turned 31 years old yesterday. The veteran spent the first five years of his career with the Pirates but has bounced to the Padres and Mariners over the past couple of seasons. One of his most attractive traits is his defensive versatility, as he’s played all three outfield positions as well as the three infield positions to the left of first base.
Though he might be a bit stretched at shortstop or in center, he generally gets solid grades for his work at the corners and at second. All three of Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average give him positive numbers for his career at second and in left, while DRS and UZR also favor his work in right field. At second base, where he’s spent the vast majority of his time, he’s tallied 15 DRS, 1.5 from UZR and 11 OAA.
Offensively, his track record is a bit inconsistent. In his five seasons with Pittsburgh from 2016 to 2020, he was above-average in two of them, by measure of wRC+. In another two seasons, his 97 wRC+ was just below the 100 average. In the shortened 2020 season, he was down to 79. At the end of those five campaigns, his batting line was .273/.336/.413, amounting to a wRC+ of 99, just a hair under league average. Still, he was able to produce 6.8 wins above replacement due to his defensive contributions, according to FanGraphs.
In 2021, he bounced back by hitting .324/.388/.448 in 98 games with the Bucs, amounting to a wRC+ of 127. The Pirates flipped him to the Padres at the deadline but he wilted down the stretch. He hit .267/.327/.335 with San Diego for a wRC+ of 86. The Friars then traded him to the Mariners prior to 2022, but his struggles continued. As a Mariner, he hit .238/.301/.311 for a wRC+ of 81.
Despite that inconsistent track record at the plate, Frazier is a solid fit for a Baltimore team that is still trying to chart its path forward. They have a number of infielders and outfielders who are still trying to get accustomed to the major leagues or have not yet made it to the show. Jorge Mateo had a solid defensive season at shortstop but didn’t hit much and struck out in 27.6% of his plate appearances. Gunnar Henderson had a solid debut in 2022 and seems to be ticketed for third base duty, though he’s also played second and shortstop. Ramón Urías had also been a solid contributor, even winning a Gold Glove at third base this year, though Henderson’s arrival seems to have bumped him into a utility role. Terrin Vavra could also be in the mix for a bench/utility job. Infield prospects like Joey Ortiz, Jordan Westburg and Coby Mayo could get to the big leagues in 2023 and further crowd the picture.
The O’s could conceivably platoon the left-handed hitting Frazier with the right-handed Urías at second base, though both players could also move to other positions if Baltimore wants to give some extended playing time to a young prospect. If Frazier’s bat bounces back or he’s simply getting squeezed out by other players, they could trade him at the deadline given his one-year deal.
The Orioles took a huge step forward in 2022, winning 83 games after five straight dismal seasons. Nonetheless, it seems like 2023 will be another evaluation season, as the club still has many young prospects who need to either make their major league debuts or continue acclimating to the big leagues. Frazier has the ability to slot in wherever he’s needed, giving the club a reliable defender who also has a chance to contribute with the bat. Whether the club can truly compete in 2023 or not, Frazier is likely to be a serviceable addition.
This is the second signing of the offseason for the O’s, as they also signed Kyle Gibson for a one-year, $10MM deal. Since both are one-year contracts, the club continues to have no commitments on the books for 2024, as they have completely avoided multi-year deals in recent years. The last time they signed a free agent to a deal longer than a single season was with Alex Cobb back in 2018. Roster Resource calculates their payroll as now just under $60MM, which is already a sizeable increase over last year’s $44MM figure, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
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