Mariners trade for Frazier, have two offers to free agents
New Mariner Adam Frazier, formerly of Pittsburgh and San Diego
November 27, 2021
Seattle General manager Jerry Dipoto addressed one of next season's needs for Your Seattle Mariners today by doing what he's wont to do: make a trade. This time, the deal was with the San Diego Padres and netted for the M's the services of second baseman Adam Frazier.
A big-league veteran of five and a half seasons, all with Pittsburgh before last July, Frazier figures to give the Mariner lineup more discipline and stability. A contact-hitting specialist, the lefty-swinging Mississippi State alum has a career strikeout rate of just 13% and posted a career-best batting average and on-base percentage (.305 and .368, respectively) last year. A capable defender, he was a Gold Glove finalist at second base in 2019 and 2020.
You may recall that Frazier was a trade target for the M's last summer; the All-Star was being shopped by the Pirates and Dipoto made a run at him, only to be rebuffed when San Diego came calling with a more appealing offer of three Padre prospects and cash. It was not an obvious fit for them, as San Diego already had Jake Cronenworth manning the keystone and Jurickson Profar on their bench, but it was intended to be one of a series of moves that didn't pan out for the Padres. Still, injuries to others, a little reshuffling of their infield, and giving Frazier occasional time in the outfield gave him an everyday role. He didn't take to the new situation immediately, but after an August slump he returned to form down the stretch. Clearly, it didn't help the Padres, who fell off a cliff in the second half of the ’21 campaign and found themselves overstaffed at the position going into next year.
Knowing the Padres' situation, Dipoto was ready to take advantage and acquired Frazier for the low low price of two minor leaguers: 27-year-old lefty reliever Ray Kerr and 22-year-old Class-A outfielder Corey Rosier. Neither has ever cracked the big leagues. Kerr might see time with the Padres next year—he pitched well at Double-A Arkansas last season, less well after a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma—but of the two, Rosier would seem to be the one San Diego has higher hopes for. The Mariners' 12th-round draft selection last June, Rosier spent the bulk of his first professional season at Low-A Modesto, where he put up monster numbers in a hitter-friendly league (.390/.461/.585 in 31 games). Even if Rosier develops into a solid big-leaguer sometime down the line, this is an undoubtedly lesser price to pay for Frazier than would have been the case last July. (Also, Dipoto has some history getting tremendous value when trading with San Diego GM A.J. Preller.)
There is only one year remaining on Frazier's contract—2022 is his last arbitration-eligible season and at the close of the campaign he will be a free agent unless the M's extend him before then. It appears likely that they won't try to do that; Dipoto and company may well prefer to wait and see how things go in the upcoming season with first baseman Evan White, who will be rehabbing from hip surgery, and Abraham Toro, the man Dipoto acquired when he wasn't able to get Frazier last summer.
White will likely not have a spot on the big-league team at the beginning of the ’22 season; his injury and poor hitting performance thus far (just 306 plate appearances) should have him ticketed for Tacoma, a level he skipped thanks in large part to the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020. If he proves he can hold his own against higher-level pitching, White may well return to first base either late next year or in 2023, necessitating a move off the position for Ty France, presumably to third base, which now seems to be the presumed spot for Toro next season. Toro was an offensive force for the first few weeks of his Mariner tenure, but slumped badly afterward—.330/.408/.472 in his first 28 games as a Mariner, .183/.256/.275 in the 32 that followed—and it remains to be seen if he'll handle the everyday role. Extending Frazier for a couple seasons might be prudent if both White and Toro don't stake their claims in ’22, but he'll probably just serve out the contract and hit free agency. Or, should White tear up Triple-A to such a degree he can't be kept down, perhaps Frazier could once again be a July trade chip. Who knows, a lot can happen.
In fact, so much can happen even between now and Spring Training that it may be foolhardy to make such speculations on moves next summer. After all, Dipoto isn't done tinkering yet. He has told the press that he has two offers currently on the table to free agents, though he declined to say which ones. He did say one of the two was "notable," which suggests that it's a big name, but one person's "notable" could be another's "whatever," so we'll have to wait and see. The M's have been linked to third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, whose acquisition would muddy the infield situation and likely bump Toro out of the immediate plans. More likely, though, the "notable" free agent is a pitcher, though someone to beef up the outfield wouldn't be out of line. Stay tuned.