Clint Frazier remains one of the most intriguing young talents in the New York Yankees system. But the 23-year-old outfielder’s future in Pinstripes remains unclear. What will the Bronx Bombers do with him in 2018?
Since this never-ending offseason moves slower than Pablo Sandoval trying to leg out a double (not that he’s doing much of that these days anyway) let’s address a question that seems impossible to answer: What are the New York Yankees going to do with Clint Frazier?
Not just in 2018, but long-term?
Frazier has all the tools to be an absolute stud. His bat speed is considered by many to be legendary. His arm strength is fantastic. He’s definitely not as slow as this offseason. He might not be a finished product, but his upside is through the roof.
He did enough in his short time with the Yankees last season to say that he’s ready for a full-time gig in the big leagues, not another season in the minors.
The problem is that the Yankees have an absurd amount of outfielders at the major league level. You’ve got the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. The American League Rookie of the Year (and Home Run champ) Aaron Judge. Former first-round pick Aaron Hicks, who finally put all five of his tools to use at the same time. Brett Gardner, the longest-tenured Yankee, a Gold Glove-caliber defender and the very heart and soul of the team. And Jacoby Ellsbury, the most expensive reserve outfielder in MLB history.
So while there is little doubt that Frazier is ready, there’s just not any room for him. That leaves the Yankees with a bunch of options.
Does Brian Cashman see a future for Clint Frazier in a Yankees outfield that figures to feature Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton for the next decade? If he does—which would mean Aaron Hicks doesn’t have a long-term future as the team’s starting center fielder—then the idea of trading Red Thunder is null and void.
But if he’s not, the team would be wise to move him now. He is simply too talented to waste away for another year at Triple-A or receive sporadic and inconsistent playing time in the big leagues. Relegating him to the bench for a large chunk of the season would hurt both his trade value and his development as a player.
If Cashman decides to go all in right now, Frazier and a couple of lower prospects can be flipped for a true top-flight starter, a move those of us who believe in Jordan Montgomery consider unnecessary. Frazier could also be flipped for a big infield bat at either second base or third base, depending on where Gleyber Torres is brought up to play.
In reality, though, Manny Machado is the only player on the market worth a prospect as talented as Frazier and that’s far too high an asking price with Machado a free agent next year. Moving Frazier will prove just as difficult as trying to find a place for him on the team.
If Cashman does see Frazier as a long-term piece—and Frazier makes his case for regular playing time this spring—it’s hard to see a scenario in which Frazier, Hicks and Brett Gardner play often enough to make a big impact.
Not only would the Yankees have to pretend that Ellsbury isn’t owed a metric-ton of money as there’s little hope another team would take him off their hands, but they’d have to convince Gardner and Hicks to accept being part of a rotation, one that saw them both take turns as the team’s designated hitter and spend a game as the fourth outfielder here and there.
While a five-or-six-man rotation would help keep everyone healthy throughout the dog days of summer, it remains an unlikely scenario.
Trading Gardner could be a possibility if another team suffers an injury in spring training, but his natural leadership, playoff experience, and team-friendly contract—which makes him attractive to other teams—are the same reasons the Yankees probably wouldn’t move him.
So where does this all leave Frazier?
The most realistic scenario is that Frazier spends much of his season on the Scranton Shuttle, filling in when injury and/or ineffectiveness strike the Yankees outfield.
Even with Judge or Stanton likely to spend more time as a designated hitter than an outfielder, there are just too many established players that need playing time for Frazier, as insanely talented as he is, to get a fair shot at regular playing time.