On the surface, the Chicago White Sox trade of Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees appears to be nothing more than another example of a rebuilding team dumping veterans for prospects. Dig a little deeper, though, and it becomes clear the Frazier trade is symbolic of the changing of philosophies that is taking place on the South Side of Chicago.
Frazier Trade is Symbolic of Past Philosophy
Perhaps unfairly, to White Sox fans, Frazier became the poster boy for Chicago’s failed strategy over the last 10 years or so. Rather than develop talent from within or sign the big splash free agent, the White Sox attempted to round out their roster with flawed veterans, such as Frazier
In five years with the Cincinnati Reds, he posted a slash line of .257/.321/.463, with 108 home runs. He delivered similar numbers finishing his Chicago tenure (.220/.311/.454, and 56 home runs), while providing solid defense. Although his power numbers surged in Chicago, his batting average suffered. He was hitting a paltry .207 at the time of the deal. His WAR numbers also dropped from an All-Star level of 5.3 with the Reds in 2014, to his current replacement level of 1.7 in the American League. Yet, Frazier didn’t disappoint in Chicago; his numbers were on the decline before he arrived on the South Side.
This is precisely the type of player the White Sox had been acquiring hoping to recapture the old magic and catapult a team with a solid core to a title run. It rarely, if ever, worked out. After a decade or so of futility, the team embarked on a massive rebuild in the winter of 2016, trading off veterans for prospects. The fans frustration with Frazier escalated as his decline made trading him ever more challenging, and his presence continued to hold back other infield prospects.
Behold! Yoan Moncada
As much as Frazier had become the symbol of the failure of the past organizational philosophy, Moncada is now the face of the rebuild. The #1 prospect in all of baseball and the centerpiece of the deal with the Boston Red Sox for perennial ace Chris Sale was promoted to the big league roster before Frazier had even boarded his flight to the Big Apple. With a slash line of .282/.377/.447, to go with 12 home runs, the 22-year-old Cuban wunderkind is ready to test himself at the major league level. The perception that Frazier was preventing him from joining the big league club increased the angst of the fan base. Hard evidence of this came in the form of 5,000 additional tickets sold and the standing ovation he received before his first at-bat in his White Sox debut on July 19.
Another Prospect Gets an Opportunity
Another beneficiary of the deal is third base prospect Matt Davidson, who figures to receive additional playing time with Frazier in a different uniform. Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in December 2013 for then-closer Addison Reed, Davidson struggled for much of his time in Triple-A. After finding some success in 2016, he was promoted to the majors in late June and promptly broke his foot, ending his season. He managed to make the club out of Spring Training, serving mainly as a DH while seeing some time at third. If not for the Big Dude from the Big Apple, his team-leading 18 home runs would put him in the rookie of the year conversation. His 112 strikeouts in 275 plate appearances demonstrate that he is an unfinished product, as does his questionable defense. White Sox fans will be keeping a close eye on his development, as well.
With the departure of a number of key veterans and the development of these prospects, the rebuild is in full swing. Frazier is a good guy; he always signed autographs for anyone that asked and didn’t deserve the ire of the fan base. Hopefully, he’ll find things better playing for a contender. Hopefully, his former team will benefit as well.