2014 was Todd Frazier’s best year as a full-time major league baseball player. The New Jersey native produced the shiny counting stats of 29 home runs and 20 stolen bases. In addition, he played above-average defense, discounted a bit by being drafted to the other side of the infield to cover for Joey Votto’s absence.

Yet Frazier’s season could have been even better than it was. For the first three months of last season, his hitting fundamentals were markedly improved, creating a sense of optimism about his prospects. In the first couple months of 2014, his strikeout rate fell and walk-rate rose. His line drive rate jumped and his plate disciplined – as measured by the number of pitches he swung at outside the strike zone – tightened by more than 10 percent. When the 2014 All-Star break arrived, Frazier was hitting .290/.353 with an isolated power of .210.

But Frazier couldn’t sustain his breakout. He cratered for seven weeks after the break.While Frazier’s 2014 ended up an improvement over 2013, he finished with totals equal to or less than 2012, his first full season. Most of his fundamentals had fallen back to between his levels of 2012 and 2013. The extreme volatility of Frazier’s 2014 season made projecting his 2015 difficult.

From Super Todd to Free Fall

2015 looks like it might be a replay of 2014. Frazier quickly answered the skeptics by blasting a 3-run homer on Opening Day and continuing to pound the ball through mid-June. He hit two home runs in Detroit on June 16 and backed that up with two more against the Tigers the next night in Cincinnati. He hit three more the next ten days. On June 28, when Frazier hit home run number 25, he was on pace to hit 55, which is almost double his career-best. Those were the days, my friend.

But Todd Frazier hasn’t hit one out since then – at least none that weren’t soft tosses lobbed by his brother. In the last 15 games, he’s hit .203/.197 (yes, OBP less than AVG), with zero walks, zero home runs and an isolated power of .085.

It’s only 15 days, but Todd Frazier’s batting approach is in free fall.

Anyone can see it. Frazier is swinging more than Tiger Woods. In April and May, he swung at 45 percent of the pitches he saw. That’s in line with his career rate of 49 percent. League average is 47.5 percent. But in June, Frazier swung at 55 percent of the pitches he saw and in July, that number has soared to 63 percent. That’s right, Todd Frazier is swinging at almost two out of three pitches. Mike Trout swings at 39 percent of the pitches he sees. In the Cleveland series, Frazier was 0-for-10 with 2 strikeouts. He swung at an unbelievable 74 percent of the pitches he saw.

And Frazier’s swing-rate at pitches outside the strike zone is also the highest of his big league career.

One more bit of data. Frazier’s career walk-rate is 7.6 percent, which is league average. When Frazier was locked in this year, he was walking at over a 10 percent rate. In June, his walk-rate fell to 2.4 percent. In July, he has yet to walk once. Counting his pinch hitting appearance yesterday, Frazier has gone 89 plate appearances without drawing a non-intentional walk. Think of how difficult it is to walk when you swing at two-thirds of your pitches.

Here’s a graph of his monthly wRC+ (Reminder: wRC+ counts hits, walks, adds in power, adjusts for ballpark and era. wRC+ of 100 is league average.)

Frazier2

Look, I’m a card-carrying member of the Super Todd Fan Club and a ticket stub-toting celebrator of the Home Run Derby. It should go without saying that Frazier can reverse this slump just as quickly as he began it. The point was to demonstrate the ups-and-downs.

Not-so-free Agency

Todd Frazier is playing in his fourth season with the Reds. He is under team control through 2017. This offseason, he and the Reds agreed to set his salary for 2015 ($4.5 million) and 2016 ($7.5 million). Without an additional deal, Frazier and the club will enter the arbitration process for his final season. He can file for free agency for 2018. Frazier will take the field on Opening Day of 2018 at the age of 32. – the age, as noted before in the context of Brandon Phillips – when players often begin a rapid rate of decline.

There has been talk of the Reds negotiating an extension with Frazier. You have to believe that the club tried to accomplish that last winter. In previous years, they have been able to reach agreement with Jay Bruce, Johnny Ceuto and Devin Mesoraco on guaranteed salaries through those players’ arbitration period, plus buying out one or two years of their free agency.

Todd Frazier wouldn’t agree to do that because of his age. Johnny Cueto will be 30 when he signs his next contract. Devin Mesoraco will be 31. Jay Bruce will be 30 or 31. Each of those players will be young enough that they can, assuming good health, expect a lucrative, long-term contract. If Frazier were to sign an extension with the Reds for two years of his free agency, he would be 34 years old for his subsequent contract, well past the prime age for landing a large multi-year deal in the post-PED era.

In an ideal world, the Reds would negotiate with Frazier for his age 32-34 seasons. But Frazier won’t agree to that. He’ll be able to sign a longer-term deal with another club that lasts through his age 36 or 37 season.

For the team who signs Frazier to his next contract, the slugger’s agency will be far from free. If you study recent comparable players like Kyle Seager and Pablo Sandoval, a five-year, $100-million plus contract for Frazier seems reasonable. But ponying up for that multi-year deal is just as bad of an idea as it was nine months ago.

If you’re relying on Frazier to provide his team a hometown discount, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Last weekend, a Reds employee told me of a conversation he had with one of Frazier’s family members who bragged that the third baseman was going to “bankrupt” the Reds for an extension. And that was before the Home Run Derby. Obvious caveat: That was a relative, not Frazier or his agent talking. But it’s a good reminder that professional athletes generally look out for themselves and family first, as they should.

We’re more than two years away from the end of Frazier’s time with the Reds, assuming he isn’t traded. There is no imperative to sign him to an extension now, especially given the volatility of his hitting and because his 2016 salary is already set.

If the Reds rush into an expensive, long-term deal with Todd Frazier, it will be a mistake. One born of the owner’s love for (some of) his own players and delirium from Frazier’s fast start and Home Run Derby performance. A new agreement for the fan-favorite third baseman would be a PR bonanza. It would paper over the sadness caused by the departure of other popular players like Johnny Ceuto, Mike Leake and maybe Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman. But public relations is a terrible, awful reason to do it.

The Reds should keep Todd Frazier and other players who can contribute to competing in 2016 and 2017. But then they need to let him go, or trade him at the 2017 deadline. Five more years of Frazier might ease the pain a bit right now, but it would ultimately be a harmful narcotic and the wrong prescription for the Reds.

49 Responses

  1. Bryan E

    Despite Cincinnati’s love for Todd, this analysis is a perfect justification for trading him. As a previous article on RLN mentioned, if the Reds are committed to moving Bruce, Frazier needs to go as well. His value is astronomically high right now in this depleted trade market. The short term PR disaster would be worth it assuming the trade led to future wins.

    It doesn’t matter who wins the Home Run Derby, how fast Chapman throws, or how many magnetic schedules the Reds give away. None of those put butts in the seats. Wins do that.

  2. IndyRedMan

    If these other GMs do their due diligence then they could figure out that Frazier hit 20 of his 29 HRs last year in GABP and I haven’t looked lately but I know its more of the same this year with his home/road splits. The Reds will never get a huge return in a trade and should just ride him out then deal him like they’re dealing Cueto.

    • tct

      Meh. He’s got 15 at home and 10 on the road. Not that big a difference, and most players hit better at home no matter where they play.

      But of those 15 homers at GABP, here’s how many parks in baseball that it would have been a homer in;(ESPN hit tracker)

      30,30,21,29,17,19,26,18,15,30,30,30,20,14,1

      So 5 would be out in every park, and 4 more would be out in at least 2/3 of the parks. All but 2 would have been out in half the parks, and one of those would have been out in 14 parks. Only one of his homers has been a true GABP special, the last one he hit in GABP vs the Marlins.

      Frazier has been pulling the ball more this year, and when you crush one to straight away left, it’s gonna be gone in almost any park. The pitchers parks are usually deep in the alleys or straight away center. Also, he’s got 26 doubles this year, which was first at the all star break, so it’s not like all his power is tied into home runs.

      That being said, good article Steve. I have been worried about Todd for a couple weeks now. Have no idea why he has turned into such a hacker.

  3. msanmoore

    Spot on analysis. I hope Todd begins a 2nd half rebound shortly, but that still doesn’t change the facts you point out regarding the future. Long-term love affair contract hurt clubs that can “afford them” … they kill clubs like ours.

  4. PARED84

    If what some people are saying is true that you could get a haul for Fraser right now, I would trade him in a heartbeat. Unconventional swing that I think will deteriorate with age, and his defense is only so-so. A move to left field or first base is in the cards. IMO

    • msanmoore

      Check the metrics (other posts) on his defense. It’s pretty good. I agree on the swing, though. It is unconventional and isn’t likely to get better over time.

  5. droomac

    In much the same way it makes little sense to have Chapman on what is going to be a bad team in 2016, it makes little sense to keep Frazier. Even with the most optimistic projections for the Reds over the next couple of years, he will be well into decline by the time the team is ready to contend again.

    He needs to be traded. It will not happen before the deadline. It should happen during the offseason. It will most likely not happen, though, precisely for the same wrong-headed reason that drove ownership to make bad decisions over the past few years: emotional attachment.

    • memgrizz

      While a bit of a stretch, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that the Reds can compete in 2016 or 2017, particularly depending on the assets they can get back from deals for Cueto and Leake. Some breaks have to go their way, sure. But there’s enough of a core here (if Frazier/Bruce are still around) to think it’s possible.

      Chapman, on the other hand, is largely expendable in his current role. It’s been frequently documented that (aside from maybe Rivera in NY) proven closers are largely fungible. Yeah, it’d be nice to continue to trot Chapman out as closer for 60 IP a year. But if the Reds can get a player back that provides a similar contribution on a more frequent basis, I’m all for dealing Chapman and keeping Frazier/Bruce.

      • droomac

        The team was projected (PECOTA) at 79 and (Steamer) 76. That was with a healthy Mes as catcher as well as Leake and Cueto. Everything would have to break just right for the 2016 team to challenge for a WC. With Mesoraco’s hip, the bullpen cesspool, starting pitching questions, continued decline of BP, shortstop question (Cozart’s knee), and hole in LF, there is very, very little change the team competes next year. Considering this, I think the smart play is to be to move Frazier and Bruce. They could, however, wait until the offseason to move both, though I suspect that Bruce (for whatever reason) is the only one to go.

      • memgrizz

        That’s completely fair (I wonder how Bailey factored into those projections too). I certainly don’t begrudge those who think competing in 16/17 is unreasonable. My primary point (which I may not have made well) was that for those who think competing in 16/17 is possible, Chapman’s a more expendable asset in his current form.

  6. azredsfan

    I love Frazier but I would call the Mets about Frazier for Sinderguard straight up. Cueto to the Dodgers for Puig straight up. Leake to Bo Sox for prospects and Joe Kelly. Bruce to the Angels for prospects and Byrd to Pirates for prospects. Resign Cozart, offer Chapman an extension, if it is yes keep him. If not trade him. Call the Blue Jays on Votto and see if they want a real Canadian. restock and reload.

    • Tom Reed

      Toronto has hitting. They need starting pitching. Cueto is a better fit for a masher in left field to upgrade the offense.

    • jdx19

      The Mets would be insane to give up Syndergaard for Frazier. It just wouldn’t happen.

      Puig seems more likely for Cueto, although I still think that is almost 0% chance. The only reason it’s a possibility in my head is the whole idea that Puig isn’t well liked on the team.

    • DHud

      Puig is owed roughly $20 mil through the 2018 season. I seriously doubt that’s what the reds are looking to add right now

  7. David

    Could someone please explain to me why Devin Mesoraco is not on the 60-day disabled list? It opens a spot on the 40-man roster and, more importantly, I believe it impacts service time. I can’t dig anything up to confirm service time at the moment.

    • concepcion13

      He is now; they placed him on the 60-day, placed Parra on the 15 (goodbye any hope of trading him before the deadline) and recalled Axelrod.

    • ohiojimw

      Meso went to the 60 day list earlier today to open a spot on the 40 man for Axelrod who takes the place of Parra (DL; sprained elbow) on the 25 man,

      Why not until now? I guess they were waiting for something like this happen and wanted the “free” move to be available when it did (I’m in a charitable mood today I guess).

      • CP

        When something happens in a business/government that seems like it should have happened months ago, the answer almost always lies here: no one wanted to complete the paperwork.

        Also, they didn’t want to have to lose someone removing them from the 40 man so maybe this gave them some flexibility.

  8. tct

    Frazier came in at number 46 on the new trade value list at fangraphs. He was the only Red. Hamilton and Meso, who were both in the top 50 last year, fell off.

    Unfortunately, there was a Red on the anti trade value list; players with the least amount of trade value. They only gave 10 names. Pujols, Cano, and Choo were among them. And Homer Bailey. Ouch.

    • big5ed

      Frankly, if the Reds offered Joey Votto’s contract, in exchange for a jar of pickles, there would likely be no takers. Granted, they agreed to back-load Votto’s contract so that the last couple of years have been under-market. Still, though, even if they offered about $20 million towards paying the last 2 years of that deal, I doubt they could move that contract.

      Newton’s Fourth Law of Thermodynamics is that all long-term baseball contracts are a bad idea.

  9. Jeremy Conley

    Frazier reminds me of Vlad Guerrero sometimes. I think it’s really hard to develop a great batting eye when you’re a bad ball hitter. Todd has hit HR’s on some of the worst pitches I’ve ever seen. I would bet that those get locked into his mind and when he see’s a weird pitch it’s harder to lay off.

    Vlad was a little better, but most years he had between 50 and 60 walks, but hit for a lot of power, even on pitches over his head or in the dirt.

  10. Myron Gaines

    Sorry if this is a dumb question, but how is it possible to have an OBP less than your BA?

    • Jeremy Conley

      Not a dumb question at all. Sac flies are the reason. They don’t count as an AB, so they don’t affect your batting average. But they are included as a Plate appearance, so they do affect your OBP. If a guy goes 1 for 4 with a sac fly in five plate appearances, his AVG would be .250 but his OBP would be .200.

      • Myron Gaines

        I did a little reading and am now slightly more confused about OBP. I guess I always assumed it was more of a literal meaning, but it does not include IBB or reached-on-error plays? I understand the sac fly reasoning, as a batter can’t really intend to produce one, as opposed to a sac bunt command from the manager.

        Watching Hamilton run this season, seemingly inducing error after error from the other team, makes me wonder why reaching a base on error is not included in OBP.

        I also see that HBP is included, but IBBs are not. Shouldn’t it be the reverse? IBB seems more dependent on the player than a HBP is (hot hitters are sometimes given respect and intentionally walked to get to a weaker bat in the lineup).

      • Jeremy Conley

        Intentional walks are just counted as normal walks and are included in OBP.

        When a player reaches on an error, the official scorer is saying that the player should have been out, but wasn’t because of the defender’s play.

  11. ohiojimw

    Frazier is what he is, a strong supporting player (5 or 6 slot hitter in a truly good offense) who was having a career year,

    There is a lot of talk here about RBIs being the children of opportunity. Consider that for most of the year Frazier has hit immediately after a guy with a ~.400 OBP rate and for much of the season the guy two hitters in front of him was OBPing at a .350 rate.

    There is no denying the HRs and doubles Frazier has produced which jack his slugging %; but even when he was hot, was he really doing that much damage given opportunities afforded him? What % of runners has he advanced and what % of the possible bases has he advanced them? He could be a case where the simple metrics cannot be accepted at face value out of context.

    As a 3B who could be transitioned to LF (assuming if Meso is around, he can catch), I don’t see Frazier as that much of a defensive risk as he ages. However I agree with others who have pointed out that his undisciplined plate behavior is an ongoing cause for concern.

    Would he be worth it if the Reds rolled the 2016 year of his current contract into the first year of a 5 year deal at Votto type money? Would he sign for that? Unless both those answers are yes, given the Reds current state they might as well sell high on him.

    • Jeremy Conley

      I think it is totally absurd to call the player with the 6th most HRs and the 4th most doubles a role player who should hit 5th or 6th on a good team. Think about that.

      There is a site called baseball reference that has all of the numbers you’re looking for. 13% of the baserunners that have been on when Todd Frazier have scored, which is exactly the same as he had last year.

      • ohiojimw

        So you are saying particular counting statistics are a superior measure of performance over a % statistic merely because of where they rank a person?

        If circumstance presents one person 100 chances and they cash in on 40 of them, does that makes them more proficient than a person who circumstance presents only 50 chances and the person produces on 30?

        Per JDX who posts here, the guy who was developing the runners advanced metric got hired by the Cubbies to analytics department and his data is no longer shared. So, somebody thought he was onto something.

        My issue with Frazier isn’t about the HR’s or doubles, more power to him. I just wish more of them would replace the pop ups and strike outs that seem to happen so often when he is up with guys aboard.

      • Jeremy Conley

        As I noted in the post above, you can get all the numbers you are looking for on Frazier at baseball reference. http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/2015-situational-batting.shtml

        League average for percent of baserunners scoring while a player is at bat is 14%, Frazier is 13%. He has less productive outs than average and hasn’t done will with runners at 3rd and less than two outs this year. But those are so much less important than hitting for power and getting on base.

      • ohiojimw

        Frazier comes in at about or just under league average in the category you chose to highlight. That infers he is likely not among the more proficient hitters in that regard.

        Maybe just have a semantics issue and the term “support player” puts you off.

        While you are cruising BB Ref, check out George Foster. He won an MVP, finished top 5 twice more in MVP voting, had another (6th place) top 10 MVP finish and was a 4 or 5 time All Star. He has the gaudy OPS+ to go with it over close to a decade.

        To me, he was the ultimate in a support player. He’s not in the National HOF and 4 of the guys who played around him over a lot of those years are (and a 5th is barred on a technicality and a 6th came much closer than Foster to getting elected).

  12. lost11found

    So what is his career wRC+ for August and September? and how do the above numbers jive with his career breakdown?

    Even with that context, Steve’s graph above doesn’t really mean a whole lot (insert favorite statement wrt arbitrary endpoints, coorelation vs causation, etc.)… not any more than a similar graph would have shown during Votto’s low-wattage May this year. The Reds have played 13-14 games over the 19 days of July being highlighted.

    I don’t want to see them break the bank to resign him. If he doesn’t want to sign past arbitration, fine. We will enjoy him the next two years, and remember it fondly.

    Regarding a trade, with his team control years left, the Reds would have to get a haul to merit trading him. It is very likely other teams do not want to part with that much.

    • vegastypo

      It won’t take much Web surfing to find articles agreeing with this assessment. … I’d also be concerned because Puig really has not shown that he can make adjustments when pitchers begin to pitch him differently. And the circumstances of Puig’s arrival in the U.S. have been a circus all its own.

      • vegastypo

        I can’t offer specifics, but this is from an article by Bill Plunkett in the Orange County Register on June 28. For context, the article earlier talked about two types of hitters, those who “study” pitchers and plan how they will face pitchers, and others who go to the plate and just deal with whatever the pitcher throws them:

        —————–

        … Mattingly offered those comments as general observations about hitters. But he was asked specifically in which category he would place Puig who seemed to overpower the game with his athleticism as a rookie. Mattingly said it was still early enough in Puig’s career that he could but at this point, “he’s probably more reacting” to what pitchers are doing rather than making a study of it.

        “At times, you do see it. You see periods of time when he takes his walks. Then you see periods where he’s chasing (pitches),” Mattingly said of Puig, who walked three times Sunday (once intentionally).

  13. mtkal

    And right on cue. . . Toddfather goes yard!

  14. pinson343

    It’s just assumed that Todd can’t turn it around ? After a single off day, the HR was not surprising.

  15. John

    I think it’s premature to say that Todd Frasier is on a decline/freefall. Whether in April, July or August, a 2-week period of poor performance is not reason to get too worked up. MLB level players are great athletes, and great athletes find ways to adjust. Frasier has another year of experience under his belt. I believe he’ll make the necessary adjustments to maintain a high level of play. So much of sports performance is psychology. When you consider that the Reds offense last year was pretty much gutted–less Votto, less Bruce, less Phillips (and a less well-conditioned Phillips), etc–then you can’t help but think about how much Frasier was considering the weight on his shoulders to carry the team offensively. Consider this year — more Votto, more Bruce, more Phillips, more Byrd, etc–and it’s easy to believe that Frasier will perceive much less pressure to put up big numbers. I believe he’ll do fine in the second half. From my perspective, trading him would be nonsensical.

  16. greenmtred

    A small, general point: We seem to spend a lot of time discussing baseball as a business, and the Reds’ trade possibilities as business decisions, which they are on one level. Baseball is an entertainment in addition to being a business, though, and teams rely upon fan loyalty for some of their revenue and a good deal of their identity. It’s easy to say that fans like winning teams, but I suspect that there is a point at which constant roster turnover, regardless of the team’s record, will seriously impact fan loyalty, especially if the most popular players are regularly shuffled out of town. My impression is that the Marlins, for example, didn’t draw well during their boom and bust years. I know that I have little interest in the Reds’ as a business. I have a lot of interest in the Reds as a group of players I’ve come to appreciate (not so much this year, it’s true…). A team obviously has to change personnel regularly, but a good deal of the blow it up commentary seems to ignore the part of baseball that probably made fans of most of us.

    • lost11found

      Harumph Harumph!

      The balance point is a knife edge.