Some trade fits are so obvious that you can't believe they haven't happened yet, so we're not exactly breaking news that the Red Sox and Todd Frazier are a perfect pairing. Third base has been an obvious issue in Boston all year, with the collective .233/.287/.335 hot-corner line representing baseball's
Some trade fits are so obvious that you can't believe they haven't happened yet, so we're not exactly breaking news that the Red Sox and Todd Frazier are a perfect pairing. Third base has been an obvious issue in Boston all year, with the collective .233/.287/.335 hot-corner line representing baseball's second-weakest output in the first half of the season. Frazier can be a free agent in three months, and the rebuilding White Sox are obviously in sell mode.
None of that is new, but events keep happening that seem to accelerate the marriage. For example, in the past two days, the Red Sox have cut ties with two veteran third basemen, designating Pablo Sandoval for assignment on Friday and releasing Jhonny Peralta from Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday. While that allowed highly-rated prospect Rafael Devers to be promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, he's a 20-year-old who was in Class A last year, and Boston seems disinclined to rush him.
Meanwhile, the White Sox accelerated their rebuild by dealing left-hander Jose Quintana to the Cubs, and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline is only two weeks away. And on top of all that, this is a third-base market with few buyers or sellers. The other obvious potential option, Mike Moustakas, probably won't be going anywhere now given the Royals' recent run, and there's really only one other contender who needs a third baseman as badly. If you think getting a third baseman before the Yankees do isn't in the back of the minds of Boston's front office, think again.
So the Red Sox need a third baseman, preferably short-term so as to not block Devers, and before the Yankees grab him. The White Sox have a short-term third baseman, few places to send him, and relatively little time to do it. They even have powerful Matt Davidson ready to step in, plus, given last offseason's Chris Sale trade, there's recent history here. If you're anxious for this to happen, you're not alone.
But we can do better than that, really. Frazier isn't just an interesting fit for the Red Sox because of the market forces at play. He's a fit because he's long been a dead-pull hitter, and as you may have noticed, there's a very large wall in left field at Fenway just waiting for someone to pound doubles off of (or home runs over) it. And, despite a relatively unimpressive .210/.331/.438 line, there's evidence that Frazier is finally learning some amount of plate discipline.
First things first: Over the past three seasons, Frazier has pulled 48 percent of his batted balls, and only six other righty batters, including James Dozier and Edwin Encarnacion, have had higher pull rates. Second, if you were to take a look at his spray chart from this season, you'll find 11 outs that might have been hits if they'd taken place at Fenway.
You can't assume they'd all be homers, of course, since, they wouldn't all be high enough, and obviously the Red Sox play half their games on the road, too. But just for some hypothetical fun, adding 11 hits to his line this year would have been 41 extra points of batting average, and a long out like this would have been a double, at least:
And when Frazier does hit it to left, he often does so hard. We've defined a "hard-hit" ball as one hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more, and for the following list we'll say that a "pulled ball" is simply one that's anywhere left of dead center field. Over the past two seasons, righty hitters have had hard-hit balls on just 41 percent of the balls they pull. Frazier, as you'll see, ranks just a bit higher than that, right with some very interesting names, among 177 who have had 100 balls hit to their pull field.
Highest hard-hit percentage on pulled batted balls by righties in 2016-17
89.1 percent -- Chris Young
85.6 -- Gary Sanchez
85.0 -- Steve Pearce
82.6 -- Dozier
81.4 -- Zack Cozart
81.2 -- Jose Pujols
80.8 -- Salvador Perez
80.5 -- Byron Buxton
80.4 -- Frazier
Young, of course, is one of the few righties to pull more than Frazier, and it's not a stretch to say the Red Sox acquired him in large part to do just that.
The point is not to say that simply going to Boston would somehow make Frazier a star, because his current home field in Chicago is pretty hitter-friendly as it is. It's more to say that a righty power bat who pulls the ball, as he does, would be nicely situated there, and the Red Sox have had success over the past decade with righty third basemen Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell for the same reason.
But there's also some evidence that Frazier is changing his game. For years, his walk rate would hover between six percent and nine percent; this year, it's up to nearly 15 percent, one of baseball's 10 highest figures. His swinging-strike rate, which had been in the 12-percent range every year of his career, is just nine percent this year, and that's largely because his chase rate, which had always been in the 33-percent range, is only 26 percent now.
Plus, while Frazier got off to a very slow start, hitting just .184/.300/.368 through the end of May, he's been raking ever since, putting up a .242/.370/.525 line since June 1.
When Frazier was traded from the Reds to the White Sox following the 2015 season, he cost three good but not top-level prospects in pitcher Frankie Montas, second baseman Micah Johnson and outfielder Trayce Thompson; nearly two years later, none have yet become regular big leaguers. Now, of course, he's got just a few months left on his contract, meaning the return can't be huge.
While the White Sox won't let Frazier go for nothing (particularly since they could give him a qualifying offer that would surely be declined, returning a Draft pick), this won't be the kind of deal that costs a Yoan Moncada or Michael Kopech, like the Sale trade did. An easy way to eyeball it might be to look at the Red Sox's Top 30 Prospects list on MLBPipeline.com, pick one Boston prospect in the 11-20 range and another in the 21-30 range. Would you be OK with dealing, say, Mike Shawaryn and Stephen Nogosek, Boston fans?
Sure, the Red Sox might be fine with current placeholders Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. They might get utility man Brock Holt back soon, working his way back from a three-month vertigo-related absence. You can dream on rushing Devers. But this is a championship-caliber team that's ready to win now, and third base is an enormous hole. Frazier's not a star, but he doesn't need to be. An above-average hitter and competent fielder, built for Fenway, who wouldn't cost all that much, is just about the most obvious move in the world. The only question, really, is why hasn't it happened yet?
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs.