Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Trading Clint Frazier

Readers have had a lot to say about my offseason plan post, which was published yesterday. While most of the criticism I've received doesn't faze me, or make me second-guess myself, there is one part that I've been willing to admit could be better.

No, it's not trading Clint Frazier, although many don't like that idea. Heck, I admitted in that same article that I don't like dealing the kid away. As well as Clint did with the bat this season, his improvement on defense and maturity is what made me a fan of his. But when it comes to acquiring someone that could go a long way in balancing the Yankees' lineup (signing lefty-hitting, high batting average, Michael Brantley), Red Thunder (sorry, "The Wildling" is not going to happen) is the guy to take the hit.

Think about it... Clint Frazier is by far the best, realistic, trade bait in order to get a strong second starter to pair with Gerrit Cole. I had to put "realistic" in bold/italics because that word is key. Sure, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Aaron Judge, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Jasson Dominguez, could all fetch that type of starter. But trading away any of those names makes little to no sense. I mean, I suppose a team could blow away the Yankees with an offer they can't refuse, but how likely is that to happen?

Urshela, Torres, Voit, and Judge are key pieces to the current team, and are all very cheap in comparison to what the team gets out of them. Garcia and Schmidt could be key pieces of the starting rotation as early as next season, and like the hitters I just mentioned, will be cheap for many years. And Dominguez... well, come on. The guy has been called the next Mike Trout!

By the way, the Yankees are not going to sign Trevor Bauer. Even if Trevor does only take a one year deal, he's looking at least $30 million, putting him financially out of reach for a team that clearly wants to lower payroll.

So I won't give in when saying the team should trade Frazier. Even if the team can't sign Brantley, I'd take a strong #2 starter and Brett Gardner in LF over Clint Frazier and a questionable #2 starter heading into a postseason series. However, I'm willing to back off on the Yankees trading Clint for Lance Lynn.

That isn't to say I don't think Lynn can fill that role in the rotation. Since he debuted for St. Louis in 2011, the guy has an ERA+ of 116. He strikes out nearly nine batters every nine innings, has a career ERA of 3.57, has experience playing for the Yankees, and is cheap (no way in Hell would the Yankees, or anyone else, have a chance to sign a guy as good as Lance for 1 year and $10 million... what's left on his contract). 

The one thing I meant to include in that article, which out of all the mistakes I could have made in there I regret the most, is that Texas would have to kick in a prospect in their top 20 or 30. Even if Lynn has a 2021 season like he had in 2019 and 2020, meaning the Yankees may want to re-sign him to get more "bang for their buck", there's no guarantee. So at least getting a prospect that could help in the future would be necessary.

But if you're still not sold on Lance Lynn... fine. I don't agree, but I'm not going to wave off that opinion. There's no problem in thinking a guy with Clint's potential, and being under team control for four more years, can fetch more than a 34 year-old starter (no matter how good) and a team's top 30 prospect. 

I'm not going to put as much time and energy into looking for alternatives, but a quick glance at Fangraph's pitching leaders (according to WAR) from 2018 through 2020 gave me a handful of other options.

1. German Marquez -Colorado Rockies

Marquez, who will turn just 25 in February, is under contract for three more years at a little over $8 million per season. He is coming off a very strong 2020, which saw him throw to an ERA+ of 140, bringing his career mark in that stat to 118. It does concern me seeing that his strikeout rate has gone down in each of the past three years (10.6 to 9.1 to 8.0 K/9), but he does induce plenty of ground balls, and unlike many saw his home run rate go down significantly (1.3 HR/9 between 2017 and 2019, to 0.7 in 2020). 

2. Marco Gonzalez - Seattle Mariners

Marco is a lefty that will turn 29 in February. He didn't blow anyone away in his first two full seasons in MLB (2018 and 2019), as he was only slightly above average (106 ERA+), but his 2020 was very nice. That ERA+ jumped to 136, to go along with eight strikeouts per nine innings, and a very nice walk rate of just 0.9 per nine innings. Gonzales is also signed to a team-friendly deal for four more seasons (team option for a fifth), that'll see him make only $7.5 million a year. While it won't be easy for Seattle to overcome Oakland and Houston the AL West, they may want to hold onto their best starter from 2020.

3. Joe Musgrove - Pittsburgh Pirates

Unlike the two previous guys, Joe's only real attraction comes from his 2020 season. Before this past season, he was a slightly below average pitcher (ERA+ of 94). I wouldn't put too much stock into a very good strikeout rate of 12.5 batters per nine innings, but he has shown strikeout ability in his pro career. 

Oh... I can't continue with that. I would not be happy if the Yankees traded Frazier for Musgrove.  Honestly, I probably wouldn't be very excited about either Gonzalez or Marquez, either. Look at it this way... if any of those three aforementioned pitchers was named the Game 2 starter of a postseason series, would you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? No way. And while not everyone would feel that same way should Lance Lynn be that guy, assuming he doesn't stay quite as dominant as we've seen him in Texas the past two years, I think more of us would be cool with it.

And that's the point. Lynn is more of a sure-thing than any other realistic (there's that word again) option. I mean, if the Mets would be willing to trade Noah Syndergaard to the Yankees, then Frazier (plus a little more) would certainly be enough. But I can't imagine the two New York teams getting together on that big a trade. Who knows? Perhaps Brian Cashman could pull something off that's totally off my radar (wouldn't be the first, second, third... you get the idea... time).

If any of you have another idea, I'd love to hear it. Maybe your idea would make me look back at my Lance Lynn proposal and scoff at my idiocy. But until then, Lance Lynn is part of my offseason plan.