Frazier could be missing piece for White Sox
Sometimes all it takes is one more move.
The White Sox hope the Todd Frazier trade they made on Wednesday proves the value of continuing to punch away until you get it right. This could work out in a big way for a team trying to assert its relevance within the American League Central and the city of Chicago.
Landing Frazier in a three-team deal with the Reds and Dodgers is huge for general manager Rick Hahn, especially given the number of other teams (the Indians, especially) that were chasing him. He was the player that Hahn and his staff targeted to be the difference-maker, and Hahn dealt for him without giving away his top prospect, shortstop Tim Anderson, or any piece of the lefty rotation trio that makes the White Sox so dangerous.
When you have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon -- with 2015 first-round Draft pick Carson Fulmer expected to come fast -- you'll get your opponents' attention. Ditto the presence of Jose Abreu, one of the best hitters on the planet.
But Hahn and Ken Williams haven't been able to support their foundation pieces with the depth necessary to win, with the free-agent signings that brought Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to the South Side unable to move the needle in the desired direction. We'll see if the trade route is more effective.
In Frazier and Brett Lawrie, who was acquired from the A's a week ago, the White Sox have added two big pieces to a lineup that was last in the AL in runs and home runs in 2015, their third consecutive losing season. Frazier's acquisition means that Lawrie moves to second base, switching the defensively gifted Carlos Sanchez into the mix at shortstop, at least for the time being, anyway.
The White Sox might have another move in them for shortstop, although I'd take a hard look at Anderson in Spring Training. The kid hit .312 in Double-A last season. He's coming fast.
Frazier, who will play at age 30 next season, is two years away from free agency. That's a tidy window for the Sox to see if they can become a serious challenger to the Royals, Twins, Indians and Tigers.
The White Sox have Sale under control through 2019 and the vastly underrated Quintana through '20. They have resisted inquiries from other teams about their availability, and the Frazier trade shows why. Chicago is going for it while these guys are in their prime, knowing that they should still have a ton of value after the next two seasons.
Frazier is solid. He was fourth in the National League with 35 home runs last year and has generated 9.4 WAR as an All-Star the past two seasons, putting him in Abreu's neighborhood.
Frazier has been a terrific two-way player throughout a career that has been elite since going to the Little League World Series -- he also pitched for Toms River, N.J., so then he was actually a three-way player -- and stole the show at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, winning the Home Run Derby to the delight of Reds fans. He did take a step back in the second half, but the Sox see no reason he won't be his old self in spring.
Likely to hit in the No. 3 hole between Lawrie and Abreu, Frazier improves the White Sox run production and infield defense. Third base had been a hole for the Sox since Joe Crede faded, but that's no longer true.
Frazier is bigger than his value on the field. He gives the White Sox a badly needed new star to connect with fans, and he'll be a huge asset for Robin Ventura in a clubhouse that has often seemed without a pulse in recent years.
No work space in the Major Leagues was more difficult than the Reds' clubhouse last season, but Frazier didn't seem to notice. He was true to himself under all circumstances, providing a welcoming presence for young players and others.
There's a lot to like about what Hahn has done in the past week, at least in the short run. But unlike the deal that brought Lawrie from Oakland, getting Frazier was a costly proposition.
Frankie Montas is a high-level prospect, ready to contribute in 2016 as a reliever if not a starter. Trayce Thompson was dynamite as an outfield defender when he was promoted to the White Sox late last season, showing himself capable of being at least part of an outfield platoon. Micah Johnson can hit for average and steal bases, but the White Sox saw him more as a trade piece than as their future long-term second baseman, a role he now hopes to play for the Dodgers.
Long term, Hahn is maneuvering in the same fashion that Williams too often did in leaving the farm system cupboard understocked. But this is about 2016 -- the age-27 seasons for Sale and Quintana -- not 2019, so look for Hahn to continue making moves.
Fulmer could make a splash in Spring Training, but for now, the back end of the rotation is John Danks, in the last season of a five-year contract, and Erik Johnson. The Sox should find a way to add another veteran starter alongside Jacob Turner into the mix to replace Danks, who has a shaky track record.
Getting Frazier without giving up his top prospect was a coup for Hahn. It raises expectations for a franchise that needed something good to happen. The upcoming season looks a lot more interesting than it did a week ago.