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White Sox Should Extend Rather Than Trade Todd Frazier

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Jul 11, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; American League infielder Todd Frazier (21) of the Chicago White Sox at bat in the semifinals during the All Star Game home run derby at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 11, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; American League infielder Todd Frazier (21) of the Chicago White Sox at bat in the semifinals during the All Star Game home run derby at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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White Sox nearing trading deadline will have to decide whether to sell, buy or do nothing. The White Sox could trade one its best home run hitters or they could extend the slugger.

If the Chicago White Sox were a stock, even Warren Buffet would be puzzled. Since a 1-5 skid out of the break all but killed their season, the White Sox are 50-51, and winners of four of its last five games.

My own personal take on the direction Chicago should go at the deadline has increasingly wavered. On one hand, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana would snag a combined $300 million or more on the open market, and those are two commodities that mid-payroll teams should be adverse to dealing. There’s just so much surplus value in those deals.

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At the same time, there is a valid argument to deal one of those two frontline guys for a small army of bats to facilitate a quick 2018 turnaround. Dealing Jose Quintana for the likes of a Yoan Moncada-centered package has been bandied about by many as the quickest path to contention.

In all of these discussions, names like David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, and Todd Frazier remain a gray area. If Chicago indeed traded this trio, then they’d effectively be punting 2017. That’s another year of control for Sale and Quintana down the drain, which begs the questions why even retain them then?

That’s why Frazier is a fulcrum of sorts regarding exactly when the new target year should be. Whether or not Quintana is dealt for line up reinforcements isn’t exactly tied to Frazier. Either way the White Sox will need his bat whether that’s in another push for 2017 with this core, or a 2018/2019 push with a revised one.

There are a few arguments for why Frazier should continue to man the hot corner for the White Sox, even if it’s during the next window.

The first is that his trade return is likely to be underwhelming.

Frazier is having a peculiar year to say the least. His .212/.299/.475 line is hardly what you want to see from a middle of the order bat. On the flip side, his counting stats are more than attractive. 29 home runs and 67 RBIs is the cream of the crop as far as traditional value goes.

The problem with Frazier, is  outside of the home run, he’s made very little contribution elsewhere. His doubles total sits at nine, which is a far cry from the 43 he hit last season to go along with his 35 bombs, and the aforementioned average isn’t pretty.

So what’s driving all of this? The first eye-popping number is that Frazier’s BABIP sits at just .200, a figure that simply hasn’t stabilized thus far. For someone with a career .277 BABIP, that’s highly unusual. The problem is that it can’t simply be written off as poor luck.

Frazier’s fly ball percentage is right around career norms at 47.8-percent and his 22.7 HR/FB ratio explains just how he’s on track for a 45 home run season. The issue is that a significant portion of those flyballs have been in-field pop ups. In fact, 21.9-percent of his batted balls have been of that variety.

Combine that with the fact he’s hitting fewer line drives this year, and it’s easy to see why he has such a low average and why doubles are suddenly so foreign.

Make no mistake, right-handed power is a coveted commodity in the game and there’d be no shortage of suitors on the trade market if Frazier were made available. Outside of Jonathan Lucroy, Frazier would arguably be the next best bat on the market.

The New York Mets are a clear suitor and David Wright‘s injury has left the polarizing and scuffling Jose Reyes in his stead. The Mets went hard after Frazier last deadline and eventually landed Yoenis Cespedes.

What’s intriguing is that the Mets reportedly had a deal lined up to send starter Zack Wheeler and shortstop Wilmer Flores to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez before it fell apart due to questions regarding Gomez’s hip.

Considering the parallels between New York’s need for a bat and the equivalent control between Gomez last season and Frazier this year, it’s not unfathomable that the Mets could part with Wheeler for the slugger.

If that’s the case, then by all means Rick Hahn should get on the phone with Sandy Alderson. If not, then surveying the rest of Frazier’s market doesn’t provide much hope. It wouldn’t be too hard for the White Sox to recoup their previous acquisition price, but a Top-50 prospect is likely out of the question.

The Pittsburg Pirates could be in the market to upgrade third base, but unless prospects like starting pitcher Jameson Tallion or first baseman Josh Bell would be made available, the White Sox have little chance of coming ahead.

Essentially, the true seller’s market is in pitching this year rather than bats, so the calculus of a Frazier trade doesn’t make much sense. This is especially true if the White Sox still have their eyes set on 2017.

But what about after 2017 when Frazier becomes a free agent?

Well the calculus on Frazier looks like this: He’s more of a buy-low candidate, rather than a sell-high candidate which tips the scales toward an extension rather than a trade.

Frazier still has his power (.264 ISO) and his walk rate is also at a career high (10.4%). Those are two positives to take home to the bank, especially if you believe Frazier can get his line drive swing back.

While defensive metrics have been low on Frazier this season, the eye test says he’s been passable out there. Considering he was a gold-glove finalist as recent as last season, it’s safe to say he’ll be able to get the job done with the glove for at least the next couple years.

Frazier is arbitration eligible in 2017 and should see a modest raise from the $8.25 million he’s making this season. Frazier will turn 31 next season, but his value isn’t tied into high floor skills like speed and outfield defense, so his power can presumably play right up into his mid-thirties. An eventual transition to first base is also palatable for Frazier, who has seen some time there in the past.

Frazier was open to an extension as recently as Spring Training and spoke highly about his early impression with Chicago. Despite a losing season, Frazier appears to be right at home, playing in a hitters haven in a big market. Regardless of what direction the White Sox go, Frazier’s leadership is invaluable. Even in a full rebuild, he’d be an excellent cornerstone to usher in the new wave. Not to mention, he’s arguably the White Sox most marketable player; a media darling who relishes the big moment.

With questions surrounding Jose Abreu‘s status as a middle of the order bat, it wouldn’t hurt to pencil in Frazier for the long haul. A four-year, $80 million deal with a club option that brings it to nine figures should be on the table for the slugger. Locking up Frazier through his age 34-season is a risky venture, but Chicago also has little choice.

If the White Sox have their eyes on even a revised rebuild, Frazier could still be a key cog come 2018/2019 at a potentially below market price. In fact, with the way the next two free agency classes look, he may even be one of the better values out there.

Next: White Sox: Will Team Become Buyers at Deadline?

Extending a fan favorite who can provide value in multiple facets is an olive branch to White Sox faithful either way. Rather than try to deal a player you can’t sell high on, why not just buy-low at your own gain.

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