Clint Frazier’s solid 2020 season has changed the narrative around the outfielder, regarding his future in pinstripes.
In December 2017 at the winter meetings in Orlando, the Pirates were shopping Gerrit Cole and had an interest in Frazier. Cole was eventually dealt to the Astros in January 2018.
A spring training concussion wrecked Frazier’s 2018 season and muted the trade chatter. A nightmarish 2019 season defensively, which included a brutal June 2 game against the Red Sox on national television, drove his trade value into the gutter.
Now, after he improved significantly in the outfield and was solid at the plate this past season, Frazier has morphed into a player the Yankees can’t deal because of how important he is to their future.
“It is almost to the point where they can’t trade him because you don’t know about the other two guys,’’ an NL talent evaluator said of the 26-year-old Frazier and right fielder Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
While the 31-year-old Stanton’s days as a left fielder are likely over, in an effort to reduce stress on his lower body, Judge has missed time the past three seasons due to injuries. Frazier started 28 games in right field with Judge out this past season. Frazier started eight in left field.
Should free agent outfielder Brett Gardner return to the Yankees, expect Frazier to play a bigger role in left field than he did this past season.
“The most notable difference from other years is how much he improved on defense and making more of a commitment to playing defense,’’ the evaluator said. “And I think he has grown up. Whoever helped him, he has responded.’’
Gardner is among the people who have counseled Frazier, whose off-the-field profile was considerably lower than in other years.
Frazier’s start to the 2020 season wasn’t a good one. After the second game of the season, Frazier was sent to the alternate site in Pennsylvania because the Yankees needed bullpen reinforcements, after using five relievers in a 9-2 loss to the Nationals in Washington, D.C.
“Difficult. Clint is ready to be an impact player in this league. There is no doubt in my mind,’’ Aaron Boone said of demoting Frazier. “Just unfortunately for him, he is blocked by a lot of good outfielders. Unfortunately with options and our situation right now, Clint was the odd man out, but that doesn’t make it any easier because he has done everything, from a work standpoint, from a focus standpoint. It is hard when you are sending down a big league player who you know is ready to produce.’’
Frazier, who made $ 563,000, proved Boone correct after being recalled on Aug. 11. Filling in for Judge in right and playing left, Frazier ended the year hitting .267 (35-for-131) with eight homers, 26 RBIs and posting a .905 OPS in 39 games. In his first 10 games back from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Frazier hit .344 (11-for-32) with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.182 OPS.