The Orioles made a low-key signing Thursday night, inking second baseman Adam Frazier to a one-year, $8 million contract. Frazier struggled in 2022 after being acquired by the Mariners final fall for 2 minor leaguers, Corey Rosier and Ray Kerr. After a .305/.368/.411, 3.6 WAR season in 2021 that appeared as if he had established a brand new stage of play, he spent a lot of this previous season in a struggle with the .600 OPS line, a battle from which he narrowly proved victorious.
Frazier will take over as Baltimore’s beginning second baseman; the principle draw for his service is that he was a bit much less disappointing in 2022 than the incumbent second baseman, present free agent Rougned Odor. In that gentle, one might make an argument that this signing represents an incremental enchancment at an affordable value. I’m not solely satisfied of this. The O’s don’t begin 2023 with the identical in-house choices as they did final spring, as Gunnar Henderson’s meteoric rise offers them one other infielder, and one with large upside. So the query is whether or not Frazier is definitely a lot of an improve, if in any respect, over the gamers who would have probably acquired taking part in time at second in any other case.
To get an concept if 2022 or 2021 are nearer to some summary idea of Frazier’s “true” skill, let’s begin with the ZiPS projection for him in 2023.
2023 ZiPS Projection – Adam Frazier
2023 ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Adam Frazier (582 PA)
The excellent news is that Frazier is projected to bounce again considerably to league-average ranges of play. Steamer is mostly in the identical neighborhood, although it likes his bat a bit extra and his protection a bit much less. Alas, his projected rebound season is nearer to ’22 than ’21, little doubt largely as a result of among the gas powering the latter was a BABIP greater than 30 factors higher than his profession common, in addition to the truth that he simply celebrated his thirty first birthday a few days in the past.
Frazier is without doubt one of the softest-hitting gamers in baseball, with an exit velocity that tied for ninth-worst amongst 232 qualifiers in 2022. However that was additionally true when he was taking part in effectively; he was tied for ninth-worst throughout his glorious 2021 season. In doing so little harm when it comes to energy when he truly hits a ball, his offensive worth is basically tied into hitting plenty of balls and sustaining a excessive BABIP. Merely put, he hits plenty of fly balls that go nowhere helpful; he hit .110 and slugged .257, each within the backside 5 amongst gamers with 50 fly balls hit in 2022. And 114 fly balls is a giant quantity (51st within the majors) for a participant who not often hits one with any sort of authority.
Now, this will likely sound odd contemplating how detrimental this evaluation is, however there’s completely nothing improper with the Frazier contract. A roughly league-average participant for $8 million is a strong worth for a workforce in want of these companies. I’d definitely like to have him at this value if I had been the White Sox, and assume he’s a greater possibility at second base than no matter weird chimera of forgettable gamers they go along with there. My downside with this signing actually doesn’t have a lot to do with Frazier himself however extra to do with the Orioles, the place they’re within the rebuild, and what their wants are.
Frazier’s projection is ok, and never “fantastic” within the sense of a sure memeable canine sitting in a kitchen with a mug. However the Orioles have already got choices at second base which might be nearly on the identical basic stage; this isn’t an organizational weak point. Listed below are the ZiPS projections for all (or no less than most) of the believable O’s choices at second (I’m leaving out Henderson):
ZiPS Projection – Orioles 2B Choices
There are close to as many average-to-below-average second base choices in Baltimore as joints to select up a superb pit beef with onions and horseradish (OK, a little bit of hyperbole). The Orioles want many issues — and lots of a lot greater issues — and Frazier’s skillset isn’t actually one among them. And as somebody who grew up in Baltimore, it pains me to see the Yankees decide up Carlos Rodón, a participant who does symbolize a huge want for the Orioles and one of many magnitude that the workforce must be taking a look at. Urías will probably be wanted (as of now) at third base, however I don’t assume it’s apparent that Frazier is clearly higher in 2023, even with a modest comeback, than Mateo, Westburg, or Vavra.
The O’s completed the season at 83–79 and have among the finest younger expertise stables in baseball. This farm system is so stocked at current that even after graduating elite, all-world prospect Adley Rutschman to the majors, their rating solely dropped to second-best in baseball in our last Board update. With all this expertise developing and years of little or no spending, the O’s might completely justify a much more aggressive offseason than we’ve seen to this point.
The 2022 and ’23 seasons ought to have been the Bildungsroman for the O’s — the approaching of age of a workforce shifting from rebuilding mode to that of a critical contender. Or, to place it otherwise, the Bond villain reveal second, when abruptly the grasp plan comes into view, whether or not it’s trigging a nuclear war on a global scale, destroying humanity to determine an ideal society under the sea or in space, or raising the price of water in Bolivia. I’ve been saying for years that “now will not be the time” for the Orioles to make a giant splash at bidding on prime expertise in free company. However now is the time. Construct on that 83-win season, push ahead, and reignite town’s fading love affair with the orange-and-black.
As an alternative, the Orioles have signed a second baseman they have already got and an innings-eater (Kyle Gibson) who was so trusted by his earlier employer that regardless of taking part in in October till Recreation 6 of the World Collection, they solely used him twice within the playoffs briefly mopup stints. That’s not world domination; that’s pocketing a container of Tic-Tacs whereas the cashier at Royal Farms is busy ringing up the field of potato wedges you bought on the counter. And whereas there’s nonetheless plenty of offseason to go, 16 of our top 20 free agents are formally off the board. Solely a single pitcher projected for no less than 2 WAR in our depth charts, Nathan Eovaldi, stays unsigned. The O’s might nonetheless make a commerce, however a commerce for anybody price having will contain dropping expertise who might in any other case assist the workforce in future years. Baltimore is greater than $150 million beneath the primary luxurious tax threshold, with zero assured contracts previous 2023. This was the time to make use of money, all the time one of the simplest ways to amass items and companies.
In sum, that is the best participant on the proper value for exactly the improper workforce. To paraphrase Nietzsche, in case you stare on the Pirates, the Pirates stare again at you. Somebody ought to inform the Orioles that they’re truly wild-card contenders.