Todd Frazier—local product, good clubhouse presence, inspirer of the thumbs-down meme—is all well and good, but how will his addition impact the 2018 baseball fortunes of the suddenly-active New York Mets? Late Monday night, the Mets ended months of speculation as to how they would seek to address their infield when they came to an agreement with Frazier on a two-year, $17 million contract.
First, that contract—much early reaction to the deal has focused on the fact that the Mets seem to have brought in Frazier at a bargain price. Frazier was predicted to land a contract in the three-year, $33 million range by MLB Trade Rumors in their free agent predictions back in November. Frazier hasn’t put up an fWAR lower than 2.5 since 2012, so, given that the estimated price of 1 WAR these days is around $10-11 million, Frazier should more than earn his contract even with a small regression in Frazier’s career-high 14.4% BB rate or a slight dip in his stellar defensive numbers.
Frazier’s addition answers more than one question mark that has hung over the Mets’ offseason, bringing more clearly in focus roles for Asdrubal Cabrera—likely starting at second base rather than third (as is his current preference), Wilmer Flores—right-handed first base platoon/utility, and Jose Reyes—bench (whew!). Frazier’s ability to handle first himself provides yet another hedge against Dominic Smith’s disappointing 2017 debut.
Frazier’s ability and apparent willingness to play first do touch upon one sad reality that this signing underlines—obvious for so long, but finally addressed by the front office—that a successful David Wright return is likely the stuff of Mets fans’ dreams. The Mets hamstrung themselves in 2017 by not having a better contingency plan at third base, so it’s a relief that they won’t do the same in 2018, despite what it augurs.
Beyond solidifying the infield, Frazier will fit nicely into the Mets 2018 lineup, lengthening it considerably. Frazier put up a 108 wRC+ in 2017, and while his slugging percentage dipped to .428, that aforementioned 14.4% BB rate helped him put up a career-high .344 OBP last year. And a proposed middle of the lineup of Conforto, Cespedes, Bruce and Frazier certainly sounds promising.
Regardless of how bullish one is on the Frazier acquisition, the mitigating factor—or cherry on top—has to be those reasonable contract terms. The Mets filled an obvious hole with a short-term contract at a reasonable rate. In fact, that reasonable rate has led to reasonable speculation that the Mets are not done making moves, and that the addition of another starting pitcher—and, dare we hope, a left-handed reliever—might still be in the team’s oft-speculated-on 2018 budget. Adding those pieces on top of Frazier just might make anyone agree with the assessment of Noah Syndergaard.