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It’s okay if the Yankees trade Clint Frazier

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Red Thunder’s name keeps popping up in trade rumors, and that’s fine.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After arriving a year ahead of schedule, Brian Cashman took to the winter with the goal of pushing the Yankees over the edge. He didn’t want to make marginal upgrades, he sought moves that would transform the club into World Series favorites. That’s why Cashman pounced on the Giancarlo Stanton deal when it fell into his lap, and likely explains why he checked in on Manny Machado.

The front office shouldn’t stop there, though. You don’t make those upgrades only to quit short of the finish line. Apparently the Yankees agree with this thinking, as per multiple reports, Cashman’s on the hunt for a pitcher via the trade market. The club has been connected to a bevy of high-quality arms, including Michael Fulmer, Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin, and Chris Archer.

Any trade for a frontline starter would likely involve outfielder Clint Frazier. His name has surfaced in virtually every rumor, to the chagrin of some fans. Dealing Red Thunder, however, isn’t as ludicrous as it sounds. In fact, it makes a lot of sense from a baseball perspective.

First, the Yankees have no room for Frazier on the 25-man roster. Right now he’s either the fifth or sixth outfielder. He’s certainly behind Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Brett Gardner. Plus, it’s unrealistic to imagine Jacoby Ellsbury suiting up in a different uniform. The outfield is crowded enough as it is.

This isn’t just a problem for 2018, but 2019 and beyond as well. The team is set in the outfield for the considerable future. Sure, Gardner will probably depart in free agency, but that still doesn’t clear a path. Judge and Stanton will likely split the corner duties. There have been some opinions floating around that say Stanton will take over as the everyday designated hitter, but that’s a foolish proposition. He’s too young and athletic to stick there. He will, in all likelihood, play the outfield, further blocking Frazier.

It would also behoove the Yankees to trade him while his value is high. Red Thunder had a strong 2017, posting a .256/.344/.473 batting line in 320 Triple-A plate appearances. He also whacked 12 home runs. He had some limited success in the big leagues as well, running up a .231/.268/.448 triple-slash with four long balls. Those major league numbers aren’t stunning, but Frazier showed off that superb bat speed.

That background and level of performance has resulted in Frazier having strong trade value. He very well could be dealt for a frontline starter. He’s an incredibly valuable baseball commodity, just not to this Yankees team. The front office would then be wise to sell high on him. It’s far more likely that he lowers his stock over time. There’s not much left to raise. Now is as good a time as any to capitalize on his value.

This isn’t to say that the Yankees should give him away. I don’t think anyone would enjoy seeing him leave. Sometimes, however, teams must make difficult decisions to improve their standing. One of the surest ways for the Yankees to do that is to land a top of the rotation starter, which could cost Red Thunder. The upgrade over internal options — no offense, Chance Adams or Luis Cessa — is well worth the pursuit.

Frazier has been everything the Yankees could have asked for since arriving in July 2016. He added a spark in the organization and contributed at the big league levels. It’s tough not to love what he’s done. Now, however, he might serve the team best by bringing home an ace-caliber pitcher. Nobody wants to say goodbye, but it could be the best thing for upgrading the roster.