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5 trade fits for red-hot Clint Frazier

Yankees outfielder surging both at the plate and in rumor mill
@mattkellyMLB
August 29, 2020

Clint Frazier eventually will find a home free of swirling trade rumors and laden with ample playing time … right? The soon-to-be 26-year-old outfielder is making the most of an opportunity right now, cranking an opposite-field homer in Game 1 of the Yankees’ doubleheader against the Mets on Friday and

Clint Frazier eventually will find a home free of swirling trade rumors and laden with ample playing time … right?

The soon-to-be 26-year-old outfielder is making the most of an opportunity right now, cranking an opposite-field homer in Game 1 of the Yankees’ doubleheader against the Mets on Friday and hitting .314 with four doubles and three dingers in 11 games since he was called up from New York’s alternate training site earlier this month. Those numbers mean Frazier’s name is churning in the rumor mill, too, something he’s unfortunately become accustomed to since he first put on pinstripes in 2017.

“I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m done trying to play GM, but obviously it’s not a bad thing if my name is getting mentioned [in trade rumors]," Frazier said this week. "Maybe it shows the interest of other teams in possibly wanting to acquire me."

Heralded for years as a prospect with elite bat speed and big-time power, Frazier has long been the odd-man out on a Yankees club stocked with outfield superstars like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The irony is that with Judge and Stanton each sidelined for several more weeks, the Bronx Bombers need Frazier as much as they ever have -- just as his trade value crests. Still, it’s not like Judge or Stanton are going anywhere long term (and Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Mike Tauchman also remain in New York’s outfield mix), and so Yankees general manager Brian Cashman certainly has to keep his phone lines open.

Perhaps Cashman holds on to Frazier for needed depth down the stretch, but here are five clubs that could be motivated enough to convince the Yankees to finally part ways with their superfluous slugger.

Indians
Yes, those Indians -- the same club that dealt Frazier to the Bronx as part of a momentous trade for reliever Andrew Miller at the 2016 Trade Deadline. Cleveland fans saw Miller make an immediate impact as he ascended to be one of the game’s best relievers and lead the Tribe to within an inning of a long-awaited World Series title. But Miller has been a Cardinal for a while now, and the Indians’ outfield has been extremely feeble at the plate -- despite what seems like a semiannual consensus that Cleveland needs to improve that unit. The Tribe’s outfielders entered Saturday with a collective .573 OPS (lowest of any American League club) and a Major League-worst .286 slugging percentage -- on pace to be the lowest slugging by any team’s outfield unit since the sport began expanding teams in 1961.

We’ve probably waited too long to mention Frazier’s defense, which has bordered on unplayable at times (he tied for MLB’s fifth-worst Outs Above Average total, a counting stat, while logging only 53 games in the field last year). But the Indians are challenging for the AL Central lead, even with one of the league’s most tepid offenses. If any contender should take a chance on a one-dimensional, blue-chip hitter -- particularly an outfielder -- it’s this one. The Yankees, with their rotation suffering from the absences of the injured James Paxton and Luis Severino, would absolutely listen to an offer that includes Mike Clevinger or Zach Plesac, if the Indians really do make them available.

Giants
The Yankees have checked with the Giants on former AL East foe Kevin Gausman, per reports, and while center fielder Mike Yastrzemski has matured into an all-around star, the future is less certain at San Francisco’s corner outfield spots. Veterans like Darin Ruf, Joey Rickard and Alex Dickerson wouldn’t figure to be included in president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi’s long-term rebuilding plans. And, with the exception of a hot start by Austin Slater before he went on the 10-day injured list, the Giants’ younger crop of outfielders has yet to show much promise at the plate.

Zaidi is on the hunt for blue-chippers to build around, and it wouldn’t be hard to envision his new army of analytical staffers passing along suggestions that make Frazier even more dangerous at the plate. Frazier’s defense would certainly need to improve to man the tricky right-field grass at Oracle Park on a daily basis, but the Giants need to add pop around Yastrzemski in the outfield. Adding Frazier could be the big payoff from signing the surging Gausman (31.6% strikeout rate) to a one-year flier.

Rangers
Lance Lynn is an obvious blockbuster candidate (and New York enjoyed seeing him in pinstripes once before), though Texas’ precarious position on the fringes of the expanded postseason picture makes it unclear if the Rangers would actually deal away their AL Cy Young Award candidate. Lynn’s contract runs through the end of next year, increasing his trade value even further. As MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan spelled out Thursday, the Rangers need more offensive weapons to put around Joey Gallo, and one could see Frazier’s quick bat playing well in Arlington. Frazier could qualify as the type of big-time prospect that catches general manager Jon Daniels’ interest, and the Yankees’ robust analytics staff might even see ways to improve Mike Minor's high-spin arsenal -- should Daniels offer Minor instead -- the same way they got the most out of Lynn in 2018.

Rockies
For all their starpower in Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado, the Rockies still need more quality bats around them. Center fielder David Dahl was struggling mightily before he landed on the IL, and Matt Kemp has not put forth the one last resurgent year in the DH spot that Colorado was hoping for.

The thought of Frazier manning the cavernous confines of Coors Field with the glove is frightening, but on the other hand, wouldn’t it feel right to give him a shot at all that grass with a bat in his hands? The DH looks like it’s staying in the NL for good after 2020, and Frazier could be Colorado’s answer for that spot going forward. The big question is whether the Rockies’ front office believes it needs to sell, instead of buy, as the club still battles for an expanded playoff spot.

Tigers
Detroit’s pitching future looks bright with the emergence of Spencer Turnbull and top prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal getting a taste of the big leagues ahead of schedule, but the Tigers’ farm system could use a boost on the hitting side. Detroit is certainly swinging the bat better than an utterly forgettable 2019, but its lineup still ranks among the league leaders in strikeouts while combining for a below-league average OPS+. Frazier has cut his strikeout rate in half this year, so this might be the Tigers’ time to strike if they believe that his newfound discipline is for real.

Detroit isn’t out of the postseason picture yet, but in the words of general manager Al Avila, this club “can't lose sight of the future,” either. Matthew Boyd’s stock has once again dropped at an inopportune time, but Turnbull, setup man Buck Farmer or perhaps even one of the Tigers’ prized prospect arms (if Avila is truly willing to part with one) could get Cashman to pick up the phone.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.