The Colorado Rockies were recently linked to two notable sluggers who are available in the ice-cold free agent market: Carlos González and Todd Frazier. The attention understandably shifts in CarGo’s direction given his history with the franchise and the appeal of another run with a fan favorite.
Frazier might be a better fit for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look!
He’s not an outfielder
You know by now that the Rockies have a lot of outfielders. In this, the time of year when we focus on best-case scenarios, it seems like they already don’t have room for everybody. It’s four guys for two spots in the corners between Gerardo Parra, David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, and Ian Desmond (probably).
Desmond probably should play the outfield. We’ll know the Rockies are going that route if they add somebody to help carry the load at first base. Frazier actually hasn’t played very much first in his career, but that’s still a lot more than Desmond had played there and Frazier’s transition to first seems to have been in the works more so than Desmond’s ever was.
Frazier might also be able to handle second base, as that’s a position where some teams have reportedly considered him. That’s brings us to another attribute the Rockies love.
In what might better be described as a “master of none” situation, Frazier can play first, second, and third base. While he has primarily been a third baseman in his career, we know there’s no playing time there with Nolan Arenado (and I’m certainly not going to be the one talking about a potential injury there).
Frazier might be able to help the Rockies as a bridge to young talent at those two other spots. Maybe he takes the majority of the playing time this year while Ryan McMahon still gets his feet wet. Maybe he shares time with him at first. Maybe he’s around next season to play some second (or some first with McMahon at second) if the team parts with DJ LeMahieu and Brendan Rodgers isn’t ready.
None of these are ideal scenarios, but the Rockies presumably champion depth because they want to have options to handle situations over the course of a long season. As a veteran who’s been around and can handle a few spots in the infield, Frazier could help fill in a few different situations. And if you’ll notice the “as a veteran” in the previous sentence, what’s another thing the Rockies love?
He’s a strong veteran presence in the clubhouse
So is CarGo. So is Mark Reynolds. We don’t need to spend much time on this, but we know it matters and we know Frazier has a stellar reputation as a leader. As with Desmond and the veterans in the bullpen, that matters for a franchise that plans to win with a lot of young talent already on the roster and graduating in the years to come.
He hits those good, good fly balls
Frazier has hit a bunch of dingers in his career. He hit 27 last year and 40 two years ago as a member of the Chicago White Sox. He started his career with the Cincinnati Reds and then played part of last season with the New York Yankees. What do those three teams have in common? Hitter-friendly parks, of course.
Coors Field rewards guys who hit fly balls. Frazier has shown he can take advantage of those environments, with a 47.5 fly ball percentage last season (and a similar percentage the two seasons before that). That batted ball profile has kept Frazier’s power numbers up as he’s aged (he’ll be 32 next season).
Frazier would presumably be able to sustain that production with the huge Coors outfield at altitude, and if he showed any flashes of his previous elite power, the Rockies might be onto a real value.
He can still be valuable with a plummeting batting average
If this rumor gains any additional heat, you might see some concern about Frazier’s batting average. He has been declining in that area the last couple seasons, with a .225 average in 2016 and a .213 average last year.
Despite those struggles, Frazier was still good for a 105 OPS+ last season. As Jordan Freemyer noted when this rumor first surfaced, a lot of that had to do with a marked improvement in his ability to gain walks. His 14.4% walk rate would have been best on the Rockies. If he continues to draw walks and hit the ball in the air, a low batting average won’t be so much of a problem.
He might be a bargain
Insert commentary on the state of free agency here. Every team has the opportunity to take advantage of the halted market to get good value. If things start to move, free agents will presumably be settling for less money than they expected to get.
It’s important for the Rockies to find guys who are a good fit as they look for opportunities in free agency. There are a number of reasons to think that Flava Fraz (which is a great nickname for Todd Frazier) has those attributes to be a fit for the Rockies.
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