In case you've lost yourself in the endless abyss that is the current offseason, we're just over a couple of weeks away from spring training games. Normally, we'd be knee-deep in analyzing each teams' offseason moves as a whole, but with over a hundred free agents remaining unsigned, including most of the top ones, that sort of analysis will have to wait. We've talked about some of the reasons for the snail's pace this offseason, and we may be back there again soon, but we've got actual signing news to savor today, so we can at least hope there's some sort of sea change a-coming.
The blessed transaction news comes in the form of the Mets signing Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million deal. The two-time All Star third baseman, who will turn 32 in less than a week, might not have been in the uppermost tier of free agents this offseason, but the length and value of the contract have certainly failed to meet our collective pre-offseason expectations.
Frazier is coming off a season where he hit .213/.344/.428 for a 108 wRC+. Thanks to the fact that he played in 147 games and was an above-average defender at the hot corner (+10 DRS and + 6.7 UZR), he was still a valuable player (3.0 fWAR, 3.4 bWAR). Despite the fact that he had the 6th worst AVG among qualified hitters in MLB, his career best OBP made up for a loss of power from his 40 home run 2016 season and he still graded out as an above-average hitter. Frazier's 14.4% walk rate (6th best in MLB among qualified hitters) and 9.3% swinging-strike rates suggest that Frazier may have become much more selective at the plate and make it more likely that he'll continue to provide value over the next couple of years.
Frazier's defensive stats are important, as well, as the Mets were among the worst defensive in baseball at third base last year with -17 DRS (29th in MLB) and -9.3 UZR (28th in MLB). There is, of course, a bit of a risk with Frazier due to his age. But he's only had one season (2016) where he wasn't a plus-defensive third baseman, and he only barely missed the cut. It's hard to imagine Frazier instantly plummeting so far of the cliff that he won't be an immediate improvement over the group that New York rolled out at that position last season.
That's before you even get to the contract that will keep Frazier, a New Jersey native, in his original hood after his trade to the Yankees last season. The $17 million that he'll receive for two years falls well short of what we were all expecting. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a three-year, $33 million deal and Fangraphs went with three-years, $42 million. The fact that the Mets were able to sign a player who could quite easily provide three wins worth of value next season for such a low-cost, short-term deal speaks volume about how awful this offseason is for the players in need of contracts.
This deal also makes the Giants' trade for Evan Longoria look a little bit worse, give how little New York is paying for Frazier's services for such a short period of time. Sure, there were luxury tax implications, but this deal looks like an absolute steal for New York, and one without giving up any prospect capital. So, good for the Mets, I think?
Grade for Mets: A
It's hard to analyze these moves in light without the vomit-colored glasses of the current offseason, but, alas, the Mets did improve and got a player who should make their whole lineup better at a steal of a deal. It's good to see the Mets actually throwing money at some players, given their normal aversion to that sort of thing, even if they're taking advantage of a weak market. If the Mets get a little bit of help in terms of rotation health, they're certainly a respectable bet to be in the mix late into the season thanks to the additions of Jay Bruce and, now, Frazier.
Grade for Frazier: D+
Frazier has a contract now, even if he had to sign a discount to make it happen, but at least it was a true hometown discount, I guess. Whether we see more and more deals like this happening as Spring Training approaches is a question we'll have answered soon enough. The premier third baseman on the market, Mike Moustakas, is still waiting and this move didn't do anything to increase his value. We're likely to be talking about this offseason and its implications for the future of labor relations in MLB very soon, but for now, as always, we'll just have to hope that this signing is sign of more to come.