Clint Frazier had a disastrous 2018 season. The nightmare began in spring training, when Frazier crashed into an outfield wall during Grapefruit League action. He suffered a concussion, and the symptoms lingered throughout the entire year, landing him on the disabled list multiple times. All told, Frazier amassed just 283 plate appearances on the year, mostly for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The good news, however, is that Red Thunder finally appears healthy. The man said so himself. Last week he posted a clip of a recent batting session on to Instagram, and he looked good doing it. Frazier followed that up with a tweet declaring himself healthy and fully cleared for baseball activities.
to everyone asking, yes i’m doing baseball activities and have been for the last couple weeks. https://t.co/Z8dBmEXKbj— Clint Frazier (@clintfrazier) December 13, 2018
During an offseason in which the Yankees have received plenty of poor injury reports, in the form of surprise surgeries for both Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, seeing a healthy Frazier ranks as a rare bit of good injury news. The 24-year-old isn’t far removed from his days as a top prospect. Plus, he thrived at Triple-A in 2018, managing a mind-boggling 170 wRC+. He showed glimpses of that dynamic bat speed, the kind that suggests he can be a force at the plate in the big leagues.
Of course the Yankees have no shortage of outfielders. They have Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge penciled in as regulars, Brett Gardner back on a one-year deal, and Giancarlo Stanton capable of roaming the outfield. Plus Jacoby Ellsbury still exists. Remember him?
In the past I used this logjam to explain how it would be okay for the Bombers to trade Red Thunder. Now, however, the smart move may be to hold on to him. There are two significant reasons for keeping Frazier, at the very least through the winter.
First, his value is likely at its nadir. While Frazier was seen as an enticing prospect just a year a two ago, opposing teams will now likely be skeptical of Frazier until he returns to the field and proves his bonafides over the course of year. The Yankees would be selling low on him, and that’s not exactly prudent.
At this point, the wise move would be to hang on to him to see if he could restore his sheen. If Frazier demonstrates that he’s healthy, hits well, and the team still has a surplus in the outfield? Congratulations! Then the Bombers have a nice chip to play with at the trade deadline. Now they have either a second piece in a large deal, or a situation where they can swap one reclamation project with another.
Second, there may come a time when the Yankees need Red Thunder. Gardner isn’t young by any means, and the cracks in his game began to show in 2018. The team also played Shane Robinson in 25 games, so good depth is definitely worth having. How sweet would it have been if Frazier took over in the outfield following Judge’s injury? Not only that, both Gardner and Hicks can be free agents after 2019, and if the Yankees hold off on trading Frazier, he could suddenly see himself vault up the depth chart if the team suffers losses in free agency.
It remains to be seen how the Yankees approach Frazier this winter. Will he arrive to spring training with the Bombers, or will he have a new home? In the past, I was on-board with cashing in on him, but now? It’s smart to have him stick around for a little while. A healthy Red Thunder is one of the more pleasant developments of the offseason.