In a curious trade involving three teams on Wednesday, the Chicago White Sox acquired all-star third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds with a little help from the Dodgers. The trade obviously benefits the Sox by addressing a gap that was sticking out like a sore Andy Dalton thumb, while the Reds probably should have gotten more and the Dodgers get some prospects for being the middlemen.
I use the term "curious" because I wonder why the Reds were so desperate to move Frazier. I mean, I understand the desire to get younger and cheaper, as the Reds likely aren't going to win anytime soon, but they were so aggressive in marketing Frazier that one could wonder if they know something we do not.
But conspiracy theories aside, this is a great move for the Sox and they would appear to be the clear winners in the deal. They did trade some of their best prospects, but the Sox farm system is poor, so they really traded the equivalent of the tallest midget to get a third baseman who hits for power, plays good defense and is a a leader in the clubhouse. These are all things the Sox needed badly.
Don't get me wrong, the players the Sox moved to the Dodgers have upside, but you have to give up something to get something, as they say. And Frazier did slump badly in the second half last season after winning the home run derby. Some argue that one is the result of the other, but I see it as pure coincidence. But he did post terrific first half numbers, ending with a .255/.309/.498 slash, finishing with 35 homers and an .806 OPS.
Prior to the all-star break, he posted a dominant slash line of .284/.337/.585 in 342 ABs, good for a .922 OPS. Following the break, he was a different hitter. In 277 ABs, Frazier slumped to a .220/.274/.390 line and a .664 OPS. This follows a similar pattern from 2014, when he also posted numbers post-break that were quite a bit down from the first half of the year.
Defensively, FanGraphs had Frazier's dWAR at 9.6. Only five third basemen rated better: Adrian Beltre, Martin Prado, Matt Duffy, Manny Machado and AL MVP Josh Donaldson.
For Frazier, who turns 30 in February, the Sox traded pitcher Frankie Montas (who throws 100 mph), outfielder Trayce Thompson, and infielder Micah Johnson. While Hawk Harrelson might be heartbroken over losing Thompson, this is a reasonable group of players for such a terrific player in Frazier.
Meanwhile, why the Dodgers didn't just keep Frazier is beyond me. Instead, they got good prospects from the Sox and sent along players to the Reds that the Reds coveted, helping the Sox get their man, while also allowing LA to stockpile some youngsters for a potential future deal.
The Dodgers did get good young value from the Sox, but in my opinion could have moved Justin Turner to second base and kept Frazier for themselves. Still, next to the Sox, LA did the second best in the deal, with the Reds coming out third in my estimation. The Reds got two infielders and an outfielder from the Dodgers, with Jose Peraza the top prospect in the trade. But it was not an overwhelming haul for Cincinnati.
As for the players the Sox gave up, I like Johnson's offensive potential and while he struggled in his first go-round in the majors and is not very good defensively, he is improving and lots of players have struggled in their first attempt at hitting major league pitching. He runs well and makes a lot of contact. Montas has that big arm, but his fastball tends to get straight and gets too much of the plate, so he needs more seasoning. Some scouts see him as a future late inning reliever, though I'm sure the Dodgers will continue to try him as a starter. Thompson is solid defensively with power, but lacks contact due to a long swing. But his defense is so good he can play now.
The Sox retain two years of control over Frazier. He will earn 7.5M this season in the second year of a two-year, $12M deal signed with the Reds in February and will be eligible for arbitration following 2016. He can be a free agent after the 2017 season.
Overall, I like this deal from the Sox perspective as it not only provides an answer at the hot corner—a position where the Sox have had mainly questions for a long time—it allows them to move recently acquired Brett Lawrie to second base, essentially upgrading two positions in the process.
The Sox stove may have been cool during the winter meetings, but it just heated up quite a bit with this trade.