The TCS staff talked about this trade and its fallout for a very long time, so this is the first of three discussions on the Todd Frazier trade and its implications today.
James: My mother asked me if this trade was the savior of the team, and I explained it to her two different times. Not because she didn’t understand me, but because the first time, I gave her a bunch of context; about how Frazier was great news for the Sox if he’s part of a larger process that brings a big-time outfielder upgrade, but that if he is not, Avisail Garcia is a bad baseball player and they just traded away the only real insurance against him flopping again.
She came away from this explanation grumbling, something to the effect of “We’re never going to get out of our own way.” I felt that I had given her the wrong idea.
The second time I explained it, I emphasized that Frazier is an All-Star third baseman, will immediately step in and be the best White Sox third baseman since Joe Crede’s back gave out, and is a good defender who specializes in long home runs. He will be a joy to watch. If the Sox were making a pizza, they’ve bought dough and sauce, but don’t have any cheese yet. The trade itself is good, but the bigger picture of the roster is simply not finished.
From this, she was encouraged, and I feel that’s the right emotional response for this move. But her initial reaction: skepticism from too many times of watching the Sox fail to put a complete roster together, is also grounded in a lot of truth and history.
Collin: It’s kind of interesting to sit here and think about how a few weeks ago we were all bemoaning the fact that the White Sox weren’t going to have a very interesting offseason. Now they’ve made two clever trades to upgrade the roster and I suddenly find myself in a position where I’m thinking “sign a good outfielder and we can compete in 2016!”
But I guess that’s how it works. I really, REALLY want them to get Justin Upton or one of the other guys, but damn, even if they wound up with someone like Dexter Fowler out there I’d be a lot more optimistic about their chances.
Rick Hahn continues to impress me with his ability to make solid trades that don’t gut the farm system and pick up assets. But like you said, James, it’s not enough.
James: I’m definitely impressed, and cannot imagine being any more impressed by moves that haven’t really required them to take on much money. Lawrie and Frazier are both still making well below what their open market value would be (depending on arbitration they could make under $12 million combined), and have plugged holes they would have needed $10M AAV at a minimum to fill. And that would be to do stuff like, sign David Freese or other half-measure crud.
Collin: I do try to temper my enthusiasm a bit. It’s not difficult to remember how optimistic we all were after last season’s moves. There was so much “If Avi pans out and these acquisitions are as good as they have been they’re going to contend!” talk, that I also have to remind myself that both of these guys — Lawrie and Frazier — aren’t exactly “sure thing” acquisitions (the lack of on-base skills worries me). But at the same time, those two positions were SO BAD in 2015, that even those modest OB skills are STILL an improvement from the crap they had out there.
James: OBP skills are not ideal, but it’s worth noting that this team was also shockingly power deficient last year: like, worst in the AL (In ISO) while playing in The Cell. I contrast it a bit from counting on Avi because that was always betting on prospect shine. Frazier and Lawrie have substantial performance records of being acceptable players and are not at age where a sudden decline should come. I don’t have a reason to doubt them beyond White Sox Position Player Fatalism — which is definitely still there — but I cannot use that to disapprove of a move.
I think the Avi doubt would be more comparable if we were counting on Trayce to handle a position. But him being gone could be a blessing in disguise. There’s not really a cheap option with upside they can lean on instead of doing something more decisive. It would be really hard for them at this point to make all these moves and turn around and say “Oh we like our chances to see bouncebacks from Garcia and LaRoche and they won’t have competition.”
Check TCS later in the day for discussions of what moves will come next after the Frazier trade.