The Mariners acquired 2B/OF Adam Frazier from the San Diego Padres at the end of November in exchange for minor leaguers Ray Kerr and Corey Rosier. Frazier turns 30 later this month and will go through arbitration for his third and final time this off-season, assuming the CBA negotiations between the MLBPA and MLB don’t result in any immediate dramatic changes.
Frazier made his first all-star game in 2021 and was voted as the starting second baseman for the National League as the result of a tremendous first half where he had a batting line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) of .330/.397/.463/.860. Shortly after the all-star game he was traded to the San Diego Padres for three players. He cooled off in the second half but still ended up having his best full season as a major leaguer, setting career highs in games (155), runs (83), hits (176), doubles (36), stolen bases (10), walks (48), batting average (.305), and on-base percentage (.368).
Hitting and Defense
At the plate, the left-handed batting Frazier is a high-contact, low strikeout hitter with minimal power. For 2021, his strikeout rate of 10.8% was under half the league average of 23.4% while his average exit velocity was near the bottom of the league. Those numbers align with his career rates and similar production can be expected out of Frazier next season. He will put the ball in play, using all parts of the field, but with minimal pop.
In the field, Frazier has spent the vast majority of his time at second base with over 400 games at the keystone in his career. Defensive metrics rate Frazier as a slightly above average 2B and he’s accumulated a positive defensive WAR in each of the last four seasons. After 2B, he’s played LF the most but never more than 20 games in a season. Frazier’s versatility in the field (he’s played games at six different positions) will provide the Mariners with some roster flexibility. However, the last time he spent any time at a position besides 2B or LF was in 2018, so it’s safe to assume that is where he will play the bulk of his time.
Who the Mariners Traded Away
In exchange for Frazier, the Mariners gave up two minor leaguers, Ray Kerr and Corey Rosier. Both players have significant upside but neither was considered a top prospect in the farm system. When the Padres acquired Frazier from the Pittsburgh Pirates in July, they parted with three players including the Padres’ fifth best prospect, Tucupita Marcano.
27-year-old left reliever Ray Kerr had been in the Mariners system since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He spent most of the season in AA and was promoted to AAA in August where he finished out the season. Kerr averaged 13.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 2021, both dramatic improvements over his career numbers. The Mariners added him to the 40-man roster earlier in November, protecting him from being eligible for the Rule V draft. He is expected to compete for a bullpen spot in San Diego.
The Mariners selected Corey Rosier in the 12th round of the 2021 MLB draft. Shortly thereafter he joined the Modesto Nuts in Low-A ball. The outfielder absolutely crushed the Low-A pitching, slashing a .390/.461/.585/1.046 and stealing 13 bases in 31 games. Best case scenario, Rosier is 2-3 years away from contributing at the major league level.
Contract and Impending Free Agency
Frazier is in line for a raise in his final time through the arbitration process. Last season he made $4.3 million and it’s likely he will make $7+ million in 2022. Even with that sizable raise, Frazier is a good deal and a huge upgrade for the Mariners. In 2021, 2B was a liability for the M’s with a hitting line of .223/.295/.358/.653 from seven different players at the position. That line is good for a 79 OPS+ (or 21 percent below average for the league) while Frazier’s batting line amounted to a 114 OPS+ (or 14 percent above average).
Frazier will have the added motivation of reaching free agency for the first time following the 2022 season. Similar production to his 2021 seasons would likely result in a multi-year contract paying him $10+ million per year.
Was it Worth It?
The Mariners filled an important hole with their trade for Frazier. He’s an above average hitter and fielder and has played full seasons in each of the last three years. Even if he regresses a little bit from his excellent 2021 campaign, he will still be a considerable improvement for the Mariners and will allow for positional flexibility, an increasingly important consideration for each MLB team.
The Frazier trade is another indication that the Mariners want to win now and end their twenty year playoff drought. Kerr and Rosier could be good MLB players but there are always a lot of variables with players that are unproven on the biggest stage in baseball. Frazier is an all-star caliber player right now and, for the 2022 Seattle Mariners, that is what matters most.