Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Down Goes Frazier

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


As Todd Frazier looked ahead to his first foray into free agency, he surely visualized the type of lucrative long-term contract that had become the standard for durable prime-aged power hitters.


He was an All Star in 2014 and 2015 with Cincinnati, then launched 40 home runs in 2016 with the White Sox. It appeared that only a disastrous 2017 campaign would prevent Frazier from scoring a hefty deal this winter, perhaps on par with the (ultimately ill-fated) $95 million pact that fellow third baseman Pablo Sandoval had inked with Boston a few years earlier.


Frazier certainly did take a step back last year, but the fact that he settled this week for a two-year, $17 million deal with the Mets is more reflective of the game's climate at large than his performance specifically.


Splitting his 2017 campaign between Chicago and New York, Frazier was hardly a world-beater with his .213/.344/.428 line, but he did manage 27 homers and 83 bases on balls. The walk rate of 14.4% was easily a career-high, smashing his career baseline of 8.9%, and ranked sixth in all of baseball.


But evidently the decline in Frazier's batting average and athleticism over the past two years discouraged MLB front offices more than his improved patience encouraged them. The same should essentially be true for fantasy players. Frazier stole only four bases on seven attempts last season — both his lowest totals in a full campaign — and he turns 32 next week.


Even if his shift to a "three true outcomes" profile isn't the most conducive to fantasy (or financial) impact, Frazier is still a very good get for the Mets, who needed another power bat in their lineup to complement Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce. Frazier's arrival figures to push Asdrubal Cabrera to second.


Santana Setback


At age 35, coming off a career year in which his ERA checked in more than a full run lower than his FIP, Ervin Santana was a poor bet to repeat in 2018. Now, a regression – at least in terms of quantitative value – is all but assured.


The Twins announced on Tuesday that their top starter had to undergo surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand, and is expected to miss 10-12 weeks. That timeline puts him out until at least late April, and potentially into May.


This development leaves Minnesota looking rather shaky atop its rotation. Jose Berrios is now the de facto Opening Day starter, to be tentatively followed by some combination of Kyle Gibson, Adalberto Mejia, Phil Hughes, Aaron Slegers, Felix Jorge, Trevor May or Tyler Duffey. Whole lot of question marks in that group.


The Twins have been openly in pursuit of starting pitching throughout the offseason, but now their urgency has increased considerably. They need a veteran rock for this rotation. I don't know if he qualifies, but Jaime Garcia is drawing continued interest from the team, according to Mike Berardino.


The Real(muto) Deal?


With Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich all shipped out, J.T. Realmuto is one of the lone quality holdovers from Miami's 2017 lineup. Hitting in this dismantled offense is hardly ideal for him or his fantasy stock, so sorta we're hoping he gets his wish and follows the others out of town.


Though spring training is now only days away from getting started, it's still plausible a trade could come together. Jon Morosi reported on Monday that the Nationals, long rumored to be in pursuit of the backstop, "remain in touch" with the Marlins, though it doesn't sound like there's been much progress. Per Morosi, Miami has been insistent on getting either Victor Robles or Juan Soto back in a deal and Washington has been holding firm.


It's understandable, given the caliber of both young talents (Robles and Soto each rank among MLB.com's top 10 outfield prospects) but the 26-year-old Realmuto would be an outstanding long-term fit for the Nats, who received an extremely lackluster effort from Matt Wieters last year and don't have much in the way of near-ready catching in their pipeline.


Final Hoss


In 2016, Seung-Hwan Oh was a sensation, arriving from Japan with authority to post brilliant numbers (1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 11.6 K/9) out of the Cardinals bullpen. His second season in St. Louis saw sharp statistical drop-offs across the board.


Perhaps MLB hitters found something in Oh they could exploit. Perhaps the 35-year-old's health started catching up with him. Or maybe it was simply a temporary setback. The Rangers are gambling on the latter, as they signed the reliever this week to an incentive-laden $2.75 million contract for 2018.


Can Oh regain his title as the "Final Boss" by taking over as an effective closer in Texas? We wouldn't necessarily bet on it, given the way things played out for him last summer, but there isn't presently a whole lot standing in his way. The Rangers have little in the way of established closer options on hand.


Right now the job appears to be lined up for Alex Claudio, who finished there last year, but the lefty isn't exactly your prototypical ninth-inning dominator with a career K/9 rate of 6.5.


Quick Hits: George Springer and the Astros bypassed arbitration for 2018 and 2019 by agreeing on a two-year, $24 million contract ... Michael Pineda, who signed a two-year deal with the Twins earlier this offseason, threw for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July; he hopes to resurface sometime in the second half of the 2018 season ... "Best shape of his life" news stories are all too common this time of year, but it was interesting to see a Kansas City Star report that Jorge Soler is down 20 pounds this offseason thanks to an improved diet as he seeks to rebound from a hugely disappointing first year in KC ... The Orioles avoided arbitration with Jonathan Schoop and will pay him $8.5 million this season ... Eduardo Rodriguez hopes to join the Red Sox rotation by the end of April, according to the Boston Globe ... Next Thursday, Tim Lincecum will throw in front of scouts at the Driveline Baseball facility in Washington ... The top free agent hitter, J.D. Martinez, is said to be "fed up" with the Red Sox and their lack of flexibility as he continues to go without a deal.



Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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