Clint Frazier's Defense and How it Hurts His Trade Value

We are entering trade season and, once again, Clint Frazier will be one of the most talked about names on the list of Yankee trade chips.  Once again, Brian Cashman will have to decide whether or not to trade him.

As I’ve noted in the past, if Frazier is an average outfielder, he is worth a lot.  At 2 Wins Above Replacement value per year, he’s worth around $100 million from the beginning of 2019 through 2023. In that period, he will be paid only approximately $28 million.  That’s an excess value of $72 million! If he averages 2.5 wins per year, that excess value jumps to $89 million. At 3 WAR, it would be $108 million.

His offense is quite good.  He’s striking out a bit too much (28.1% of the time) and walking a bit less than you’d like (6.8% of plate appearances), but he’s hitting with very nice power (11 home runs along with a .523 slugging percentage).  There are 81 outfielders in the majors with 190 or more plate appearances and Clint ranks 32nd in wOBA (a nice one number measure of offensive production) - not bad for a guy with 365 total plate appearances in the bigs.  He should improve offensively - quite possibly significantly.

Frazier’s defense is another story.  He ranks 69th out of those 81 outfielders in defensive runs prevented.  If you look at outfielders with 300 or more innings in the field, Clint’s universal zone rating per 150 innings of -19.2 is 78th out of 82 outfielders.  It’s also the same as his UZR/150 of -19.0 in 2017. So, with this very small sample size, he does not appear to be improving.

Because his defense is so poor, it overshadows his excellent offensive production and potential. A player that hits like Frazier would be worth a lot on the open market or in a trade. Because of his defense, though, his value could be limited. Poor fielding outfielders are not a commodity that is in high demand.

Because his value will be low, the Yankees should not consider trading Frazier. The Yankees have already signed the injury prone Aaron Hicks to a long term deal.  They also have several more years with the currently injured Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.  Brett Gardner is approaching the end of his Yankee career. Cameron Maybin is good defensively but has no power.  The only other outfielder they have is Esteban Florial who is still likely still at least a year away. I wouldn’t bet the rent money on any other outfielders in the farm system.

Frazier will never be a gold glover in the outfield but he should, with practice, be able to make fewer poor defensive plays than he has this year.  Maybe he’ll only be a bad outfielder and not an awful one (which would be a big difference). He could be quite above average offensively and ultimately a 2.5-3.0 WAR player.  Unless the Yankees can trade him for 2+ years of a real difference making starting pitcher, I would be reluctant to trade him. Talent like his does not come around every day and he could be an important part of the Yankees’ future in the outfield.