The Mariners are known to be on the lookout for infield upgrades, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that Seattle is currently in active pursuit of infielders who are controlled beyond the 2021 season — including Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier. The Pirates are obvious sellers, and the widespread expectation is that Frazier will likely be traded between now and next Friday’s 4pm ET deadline.
Frazier, 29, is in the midst of the finest season of his solid career. His 413 plate appearances are the fourth-most in Major League Baseball, and he’s turned in a robust .327/.390/.453 batting line with four home runs, 27 doubles, four triples and five stolen bases. Frazier’s 10.9 percent strikeout rate is the fifth-lowest among 137 qualified big league hitters. He’s also tied for the game’s fifth-best contact rate (88.4 percent) and has the game’s seventh-lowest swinging-strike rate (5.4 percent).
It’s true that Frazier has benefited to an extent from some good fortune on balls in play; this year’s .363 BABIP is a career-high. However, even with some regression in that department, Frazier would likely still be enjoying a career year by virtue of that career-low strikeout rate. Statcast pegs his “expected” batting average at .297, after all, and he’s still walking at a respectable eight percent clip while swinging and missing less than ever before. He may not sustain this level of output, but he’s made his rough 2020 season look particularly fluky.
Frazier’s value goes beyond his contributions at the plate, too. His defense at second base has drawn plus ratings in Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average for his career, and he’s also an above-average left fielder by virtually any measure.
The Mariners surely see Frazier as a potential upgrade at second base, where they’ve received a collective .198/.267/.345 output so far in 2021. That’s a disastrous output no matter how you frame it, but it’s actually been far worse as of late; that combined effort includes 69 very strong plate appearances from Ty France, who’s slashed .293/.391/.483 while playing second base. France, however, has been playing more first base lately. Non-France Mariners second basemen in 2021 are hitting just .178/.239/.317 on the season.
As such, it’s no surprise to see Frazier among the Mariners’ targets. He’s playing the year on a $4.3MM salary and is controlled through 2022 via arbitration. That’s a key distinction for the Mariners, who are seven games back in the AL West and four and a half games back of a Wild Card spot. They’re aiming to stock up for a bit of a long-shot postseason run in 2021, but adding players who can help next year when their young core is more established (and likely after some offseason spending) is sensible.
It stands to reason that if Seattle is looking into Frazier, then general manager Jerry Dipoto has also gauged the asking price on Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield, who has again seen his name surface on the summer rumor mill. Dipoto is never afraid to make deals and will likely be checking in on a number of controllable, longer-shot trade candidates as the deadline approaches.
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