After playing a rotating collection of infielders who don’t have the arm strength for the position at third base in 2017, the Mets sought to upgrade at the hot corner for the 2018 season. They eventually found their upgrade in New Jersey native and Tom’s River Little League baseball legend Todd Frazier, who they signed to a below market two-year, $17 million contract in early February.
Frazier was coming off of a season in which he posted 3.1 fWAR in 147 games split between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, hitting a slightly above league average .213/.344/.428 (108 wRC+) in 576 plate appearances and playing solid defense at third along the way. Perhaps most interestingly, Frazier posted a career-high 14.4% walk rate, good for 6th in the league among qualified hitters, in 2017, showing what the Mets hoped was an increased ability to get on base going forward. The Mets hoped Frazier would bring his signature league average offensive production and solid defense at the hot corner with him to Flushing for 2018.
For the most part, Frazier provided roughly league-average offensive production and above-average defense at third base, even if inconsistency and injury limited him to the lower end of what was expected of him when he was signed. A hot April, during which Frazier hit a robust .295/.395/.444 in 114 plate appearances, gave way to an injury-plagued May, in which he logged just 26 plate appearances in six games before landing on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Frazier missed the rest of May with a hamstring injury, and struggled mightily after returning to the team in June. Frazier hit just .198/.227/.352 in 97 plate appearances in June, and .190/.261/.381 in 23 plate appearances in July before heading back to the disabled list on July 8 with a muscle strain is his left rib cage.
After being activated from his second disabled list stint of the season on August 2, Frazier returned to form and hit .255/.319/.480 (118 wRC+) in 113 plate appearances in August. He then faded down the stretch, hitting just in .150/.293/.300 in 99 plate appearances in September, although he did walk in 14.1% of his plate appearances during the month.
While his performance in September was underwhelming, Frazier did have a few memorable moments during the month. On September 3 against the Dodgers, Frazier dove into the stands in an attempt to catch a foul ball off of the bat of Alex Verdugo. He emerged with the ball in his hand and Verdugo was called out by third base umpire Mark Wegner. It was later reported by Steve Gelbs that Frazier did not actually catch the ball, and he instead presented a child’s rubber baseball that he found in the stands in order to trick Wegner into thinking he had made the play. On September 13 against the Marlins, Frazier followed a Michael Conforto game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run, giving the Mets a 4-3 victory in the first game of a doubleheader. He was greeted at home plate by veteran umpire Tom Haillon, who stood directly on top of the plate as Frazier attempted to score.
On the season, Frazier hit .213/.303/.390 in 472 plate appearances, which was good for a roughly league-average 93 wRC+ and somewhere between 1.5 and 3.1 WAR (fWAR and WARP respectively), depending on how the particular WAR calculation factors in his defensive contributions. Perhaps most disappointingly, Frazier’s still above-average 10.2 % walk rate on the season fell closer to his 9.1% career norm than the elite 14.4% he posted in 2017.
Despite spending time on the disabled list for the first time in his career, Frazier was serviceable at third base in 2018, and he basically provided a light version of his usual level of performance. If the Mets are truly serious about contending in 2019 or beyond, third base is probably a position where they should look to find an upgrade this offseason. But if the front office decides that the team’s resources are better spent on more glaring issues, Frazier is a good bet to be a decent starter at third base in the last season of his below-market contract.