The corner infield positions were a void of production for much of the first half in 2017, prompting Brian Cashman to improve both spots by acquiring Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox on July 18 as part of a seven-player trade and moving Chase Headley from third base to first base.
Frazier was the first name that the Yankees were reportedly connected to for that trade, but wound up being the throw-in piece of a much larger acquisition of two major bullpen pieces, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Frazier’s value, however, would gradually rise over the course of the season.
Frazier’s numbers have been in decline since his second All-Star season with Cincinnati back in 2015, and 2017 was no different. Prior to the deal, Frazier hit just .207 with 16 home runs and 44 RBI in 81 games with the White Sox. His .432 SLG and .761 OPS were both career lows. He made marginal improvements once he entered the pennant race in New York, posting a .222/.365/.423 slash line, hitting 11 home runs and 32 RBI in 66 games.
What made him valuable to the Yankees beyond his statistics is that he became a clubhouse leader. The connection was easy to make, as many (many, many) references were made to his Toms River, NJ roots and standing beside Derek Jeter in celebration of winning the Little League World Series. Playing for the Yankees was like a homecoming for Frazier, and he fully embraced the opportunity.
Frazier was a likeable guy, and a likeable veteran has tremendous value to a young club like the Yankees. Matt Holliday originally held that role in the first half, but after injuries and a virus largely made him disappear Frazier filled that gap. Though at first he was just a rental, it would make sense from the Yankees perspective to try to bring back Frazier on a short term deal, likely no longer than one year. That would be detrimental to Frazier however, who at 31 is probably staring at his last opportunity to get a big contract.
Regardless of whether he returns to New York next year, Frazier’s 2017 was a success for all involved. He provided the stop gap that Cashman sought as he awaits the arrival of several Yankee stud prospects, and got the opportunity to go deep into the postseason for the first time in his career. Whatever team Frazier winds up on will benefit from his personality and plus-power, and the Yankees will have benefitted from his impact on their core players.