The Yankees will have an incredibly rare opportunity on the table Sunday: the chance to add a player with 11 home runs, a .283/.330/.513 batting line, and a 115 wRC+ at the big-league level this late into the season. That’s right, Clint Frazier should be on his way back to the Yankees on September 1, according to Aaron Boone.
Regardless of what you think about Frazier, fans can agree that his arrival will add an impact bat to the lineup. More importantly for the 24-year-old, he’s playing for his Yankees future.
If he shows the Bombers that he’s worth the effort, they could elect to keep him around. If he shows he’s improved his defense to a passable level, he instantly regains his trade value. If he shows that he has not improved on or off the field since his last stint in the majors, a generally good period that ended in disaster, he could end up stuck in MLB purgatory.
Although the Yankees’ outfield is just as crowded now as it was a few months ago, when Frazier was first sent down, there still could be an opportunity for him to receive playing time. Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman are great in the field and have had great seasons at the plate, but they can figure out a plan to get everyone at-bats. After all, Maybin recently missed time with wrist soreness. He could afford a day here and there.
Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton also remain sidelined for the immediate future, which forces Brett Gardner into everyday duty. On the right day and with the right matchup, Frazier could be a better option than everyone in the Yankees’ outfield except Aaron Judge.
That said, Frazier’s road to playing time still has a few roadblocks. Tauchman and Maybin have been so good this year that they deserve consideration when penciling in the lineup. They are also both better defenders and baserunners than Frazier. As long as the games still matter, expect Boone to keep his outfield depth chart the same as is it’s been all year, with Frazier behind Gardner, Tauchman and Maybin.
As soon as the cross of their remaining goals, namely clinching the division and home-field advantage, the games largely become meaningless. The team could reach that point earlier than expected, which could provide ample playing time for some September call-ups, including Frazier. He could also make for a powerful pinch hitter in the meantime, at least.
The Yankees owe it to themselves to play Frazier. They won’t get much out of it by sitting him. The minute they held onto him at the trade deadline, they should have recalled him because he’s theirs for the rest of the year. While I am not advocating to make Frazier a full-time starter, playing him semi-regularly lets the team see if he’s improved at all. It can also showcase him to potential trade partners. Like it or not, he’s here, so the team might as well use him.
Could fans be witnessing Frazier’s final month with the Yankees? Maybe. It has certainly been an interesting journey, and one that will always be bogged down with “what-ifs?” The Yankees can do their best to answer some of those questions by giving Frazier one final chance in September.