The New York Yankees are, of course, kicking the tires on a potential trade for Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado, like any other team. However, Machado is not a must-have for New York in 2018; there’s no need for them to try and outdo themselves. In fact, the Yankees would be wise to keep it simple and not overthink things at third base: re-sign Todd Frazier to man the corner infield position.
The Yankees have already executed the blockbuster trade of the offseason. Acquiring NL MVP right fielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins for second baseman Starlin Castro as well as minor leaguers’ Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, they now possess one of, if not the most feared outfield duos in MLB with Stanton and Aaron Judge. Adding Stanton to a lineup that already features Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner or Aaron Hicks — depending on how first-year manager Aaron Boone decides to sort out his outfield logjam — and Greg Bird cements the Yankees’ reputation as being one of MLB’s best lineups. One could now argue that another bat should be the least of their worries based on the power and stardom their lineups now holds, making trading for Machado an unnecessary transaction.
At the same time, general manager Brian Cashman and the Yankees do have to find a third baseman for the 2018 season. After trading Chase Headley to the San Diego Padres, they’re now deprived of a legitimate starting third baseman. They’re also watching Frazier — who they acquired over the summer — test the free agent market, but could make a very compelling pitch to the 31-year-old to stay.
In a split season with the Chicago White Sox and Yankees, Frazier hit just .213 and finished with 125 strikeouts, but also hit 27 home runs and drove in 76 runs. Simultaneously, he is one of the best at fielding his position.
Whether it be his long range, smooth glove or strong arm, Frazier has been a sound product at third over the duration of his career.
Frazier certainly has his flaws. He hasn’t hit for average over the past two seasons and strikes out often, but he can hit for power and is stellar at third. Before the 2017 season, he hit a combined 104 home runs from 2014-2016 and has always been smooth at third — which cannot be taken away from him.
The Yankees’ infield is their weakness. Outside of Gregorius at short, the Yankees have either inexperienced or unproven commodities in their infield. While Bird woke up late in the year, he still has to prove he can consistently hit at a high level and, more importantly, remain healthy. Ronald Torreyes has never manned a consistent starting role and third base is up for grabs at the moment.
When it comes to resolving the corner infield dilemma, the Yankees have four options: Go all-out on a Machado trade, sign a top-flight third baseman, bring up top prospect Gleyber Torres or re-sign Frazier. Out of all their options, re-signing Frazier on a short-term deal comes with the lowest risk.
If the Yankees make Machado their priority, it’s going to cost them a top prospect or two, when they could just sign him after the 2018 season. With numerous reports and rumors stating that the third baseman has his sights set on the Bronx, it would be foolish for management to give up prospects for a player who they essentially have in their back pocket after this season.
If the Yankees opt to sign a free agent third baseman such as potentially Mike Moustakas, they’ll have to fork over eight figures per year and commit to him for a number of years. If the Yankees believe Torres or Machado is their third baseman of the future, why would they commit to a free agent on a long-term deal?
Then there’s the best option and that’s to bring back Frazier. The veteran isn’t a flawless ballplayer, but on a short-term deal makes a lot of sense. For starters, re-upping with the Yankees would allow the Toms River product to stay relatively close to home and with the appropriate amount of money on the table would be beneficial on his part.
When it comes to a contract for Frazier, management has to, of course, keep Torres and Machado in the back of their minds, as it’s becoming increasingly likely that one of the two will be the team’s starting third baseman after the 2018 season; doing so makes offering a one-year deal to Frazier the right course of action.
While he’s certainly in search of a long-term deal, the reality is that Frazier’s inconsistency at the plate, in terms of hitting for average, is a setback in contract talks. If he is given another year to prove himself, allowing him to potentially get that long-term deal, then granting Frazier a one-year, $15 million deal would be beneficial for both parties. On one hand, albeit the hefty salary, the Yankees get a temporary solution at third base who helps pave the way for Torres or Machado, while Frazier gets paid a more than fair salary for one season and, at the same time, gets to play for a bigger deal next Winter.
It may not be the sexy move, but re-signing Frazier on a one-year deal to play third makes the most sense for New York; trying to force a trade and damage the farm system, or dish out a long-term deal would be a mistake.