NEW YORK -- Entering this offseason, the Mets laid out three priorities to improve their team. One was to fortify their bullpen, which they did in signing Anthony Swarzak in December. Another was to strengthen their outfield, which they did in reacquiring Jay Bruce the following month.
The last was to solidify their infield, which the Mets accomplished on Monday -- mere days from the official start of Spring Training. The team inked third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year deal, finalized on Wednesday. The contract calls for Frazier to be paid $8 million this year and $9 million in 2019, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported.
"Todd has been one of the league's top third basemen since he broke into the league in 2011," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a release. "He has a track record of hitting for power as well as playing solid defense, and will be a vital piece for us on and off the field as we look to return to the postseason."
Frazier, 31, hit .213 with 27 home runs in 147 games last year for the White Sox and Yankees, and has gone deep 131 times with a .786 OPS over the past four seasons. Frazier's presence will shift Asdrubal Cabrera to second base, all but finalizing an Opening Day infield of those two, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and shortstop Amed Rosario.
In addition, Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes are locks to open the season as veteran presences on the Mets' bench. Dominic Smith is likely to wind up at Triple-A Las Vegas, while another infield option, T.J. Rivera, is scheduled to continue rehabbing from Tommy John surgery into the season.
With that as a backdrop, Frazier offers the Mets the type of stability they have lacked at third base since David Wright began experiencing career-altering back issues in 2015. Since '13, Frazier has averaged 154 games per season, establishing himself as a strong defender in addition to a slugger. The downside to Frazier's game is his .242 batting average over that stretch, with one strikeout every 4.6 plate appearances.
But even if Frazier gives the Mets nothing more than power at the plate, his defense and durability are two things team officials craved. For much of this offseason, the Mets operated under the assumption that Cabrera would play third, freeing them to browse second basemen such as Jason Kipnis, Josh Harrison, Neil Walker and Eduardo Nunez.
All the while, they kept an eye on Frazier, knowing they could shift Cabrera to second if they found a deal worth pursuing. Believing Frazier presented better potential value, the Mets never seriously considered Mike Moustakas, the top free-agent third baseman on the market.
A native of Toms River, N.J., Frazier experienced a homecoming of sorts when the White Sox traded him to the Yankees last July, often speaking fondly of the opportunity to play in front of his local fans. He wanted to stay; throughout this offseason, Hot Stove rumors placed Frazier in the crosshairs of both the Yanks and Mets, though it was the latter team that ultimately struck when his price dropped. In a slow free-agent market, Frazier will take a pay cut after making $12 million through arbitration last season.
The move provides more evidence for Alderson's assertions that the Mets have been among baseball's most active teams this offseason. In signing Frazier, Bruce, Reyes, Gonzalez and Swarzak, the Mets have committed $72.5 million to free agents, increasing their projected Opening Day payroll above $140 million. And they may not be done. A source said the club plans to continue monitoring the pitching market, where Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Jason Vargas and others remain available.
Although the Mets do not appear as committed to signing a starter as they were to acquiring an infielder, doing so would address one of the only remaining depth issues on their roster.
"We've actually been as active as anybody," Alderson said recently. "We've probably added as many players as anybody. We've probably committed as many dollars as most teams. And yet we've sort of taken a wait-and-see look as well."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Despite hitting a career-low .213, Frazier finished 2017 with a personal-best 14.4 percent walk rate and a fourth straight 25-homer campaign. The 31-year-old should not be expected to help in the batting-average arena, but he could contribute roughly 30 homers and 80 RBIs to move the needle in deep mixed formats. As a result of the signing, Reyes will likely move to a reserve role and should be left on waivers outside of National League-only formats.