It was another year where the on-field production from Clint Frazier didn’t quite live up to the hype. The former fifth overall pick put together his most productive offensive season to date, but he was only slightly above league average in many metrics. Even worse, a long series defensive gaffes kept him from establishing a foothold on a roster absolutely riddled with injuries.
2019 Statistics: 69 games, 246 plate appearances, .267/.317/.489, 12 home runs, 38 RBI, 31 runs, 26 extra-base hit, 0.1 fWAR, 108 wRC+
2020 Contract Status: Earliest Arbitration: 2021, Earliest Free Agent: 2024
Thanks to injuries, Frazier was a mainstay on the Yankees’ big league roster for much of the first half of the season. He appeared in 53 of the team’s first 70 games, and he put up a respectable .283/.330/.513 slash line while knocking 11 home runs. For whatever value Frazier brought to the team at the plate, he was a complete liability in the field. His defensive woes culminated in a June game against the Red Sox.
In the seventh inning at home while trailing 3-2, Frazier misplayed a ball that allowed a run to score and put the hitter on third base. As the Red Sox continued to rally, Frazier’s miscues mounted. He let a catchable ball fall to the ground, allowing the Red Sox to take a 6-2 lead, and another run came around when Frazier misplayed yet another ball in right field. Only one of these events showed up as an error in the box score, but Frazier was singlehandedly responsible for multiple runs that inning.
To make matters worse, Frazier mostly declined to speak to the media after the game. To be fair, he did address his play that night with ESPN’s Coley Harvey, but Frazier did not make himself available to other members of the media that night, which caused quite a stir.
In the wake of those events, Frazier doubled down on his decision to not discuss his defensive woes, telling reporters, “I don’t regret [not speaking to the media]. To be fair, I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation, because it’s not a rule that I have to speak.” Frazier also mentioned the unfair treatment he’s felt at the hands of the New York media, citing his hair, the Mickey Mantle number “controversy,” and his concussion issues.
Regardless of how fair or unfair Frazier’s been treated, the events in June were a bad look for the young outfielder and perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence he found himself in Triple-A just a few weeks later. Frazier didn’t return to the big leagues until September in large part because defensive superstar Mike Tauchman took his place.
When he did return to the majors, Frazier had a mostly forgettable month. He slashed a paltry .176/.243/.353 with just one homer and 11 strikeouts in 37 plate appearances. The Yankees left him off their playoff roster, and he now faces yet another uncertain offseason.
With Aaron Hicks out as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and Cameron Maybin and Brett Gardner hitting free agency, the Yankees do seem to have space for Frazier in their outfield. Whether the Yankees want him out there remains a whole other question. To make matters more complicated, Frazier’s trade value seems to be a shadow of what it once was. In a recent Pinstripe Alley piece, Tom Krosnowski accurately outlined the issue around trading Frazier:
Over 123 MLB games, a pretty healthy sample size, he’s hit 16 home runs and slashed .254/.308/.463. Those are good numbers, but also not numbers that any other GM will be banging down the door for. Factor in Frazier’s injury history and his various conflicts with the team and the media, and I think it’s safe to say that Frazier most likely isn’t viewed as a headliner in any potential deal for a starting pitcher.
As Tom suggests in his article, the Yankees could be best served to keep Frazier for the 2020 season. He’s shown to have a good amount of value at the plate, but questions about his defense still remain.
As a 0.1 fWAR player this season, Frazier’s contributions to the 2019 Yankees were almost a net zero. The team didn’t rely on him to be a primary player this season, and that might still be the case next year, making a trade even more likely.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Frazier had no options remaining. He has one minor league option.