Deadlocked in what has been the slowest offseason in recent memory, the Braves, like 90 percent of the other teams around baseball, have done very little. There’s an All-Star team of free agents still out there. Take a look at these astounding numbers:
More Cold Stove facts:— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2018
- Most FA $ spent: Rockies, $114.5M
- $0 spent: Jays, Rays, O's, Marlins, Braves, Pirates
- Total AL East FA spending: $23M
- Mets: $14M, 1 player
- Red Sox: $13M, 1 player
- Yankees: $10M, 1 player
- Giants: $2.5M, 1 player
- Dodgers: $2M, 1 player
It’s not for a lack of trying. We’ve heard reports that the Braves are interested in a wide range of players, but we’ve had little action. The Matt Kemp trade was a money swap and opened a spot for Ronald Acuña. A few players have come and gone from the 40-man roster. And that’s about it.
There are still a handful of holes to fill on the roster. I’d argue the biggest one is third base, and there are some legitimate options out there.
It doesn’t make sense to trade for Josh Donaldson given his impending free agency (and is Toronto even open to moving him?). The same goes for Manny Machado. Mike Moustakas is a solid option, but I have an issue giving a guy with a career .305 OBP and 96 wRC+ a big contract. Maybe the cost will come down, but for now I’ll say he ends up signing elsewhere for more than he’s worth.
This brings us to Todd Frazier. It’s hard to find many reasons for the Braves to not sign him.
For reference, Jon Heyman pegged Frazier for 4 years and $48 million at the start of the winter. An “expert” he surveyed for all the top free agents had him at 3 years and $32 million. MLBTR predicted 3 years and $33 million.
I think the latter of those three estimates is pretty close to what he’ll sign for. Even a 3/$30M deal might be feasible given how slow everything has moved the last few months. A two-year deal would be ideal, but teams generally have to give an extra year to the free agents they want to sign. It will likely come down to how many teams are interested in his services to drive the price up.
Frazier, 32 next month, posted a 108 wRC+ and 3.0 WAR with the White Sox and Yankees last year. He’s played more than 147 games in each of the last five seasons*. He’s never had a high batting average, but he walks a lot (11.8%) and hit 67 homers the last two years while playing strong defense (+10 DRS in 2017, +8 the last two seasons). He’s also regarded as a Good Teammate In The Clubhouse, for whatever that’s worth.
*Alex Anthopoulos has said he values durability and Frazier certainly passes that test.
I’m a fan of Johan Camargo, but he’s best suited as a super utility guy. That’s not a knock on him at all, but it’s hard to imagine him starting 150 games at third base next season (or in 2019, for that matter). His value will be highest to the Braves when he’s able to split his time all around the diamond.
Austin Riley was ranked 6th in the Talking Chop top-25 list last week. He should spend all of 2018 in the minors, if not most of 2019 given his age and experience to date. He improved his stock drastically in 2017, but with just 200 plate appearances in Double-A, it’s hard to be comfortable handing him the keys and forgetting about third.
I am completely in favor of signing Frazier as long as the price is right. It brings stability and an upgrade at third at a reasonable cost. It allows the Braves to still be big spenders next winter. It wouldn’t dip into the prospect pool. And it allows Riley to keep developing without any kind of pressure or need to prematurely promote him.