The Seattle Mariners are desperately trying to break their postseason drought. After just missing out on the playoffs, the team reportedly traded for All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.
In exchange for Frazier, the San Diego Padres will receive pitcher Ray Kerr and outfielder Corey Rosier.
The move gives Seattle a dependable starter at second base after Dylan Moore cratered last season. Moore, 29, hit just .181/.276/.334 and put up numbers barely above replacement level, according to FanGraphs’ version of WAR.
Frazier, 29, represents a significant upgrade over Moore, though there’s some risk in Frazier’s profile. Frazier was unstoppable with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, slashing .324/.388/.448. His contact rate jumped, and when he put balls in play, they found holes. That performance earned Frazier his first All-Star selection.
Frazier’s luck ran out after joining the Padres at the trade deadline. He hit just .267/.327/.335 the rest of the way. His BABIP, which was an unusually high .359 with the Pirates, dropped to a more reasonable .299 with San Diego. Frazier still made more contact than ever with the Padres, but those balls weren’t dropping for hits as often.
The Mariners are hoping Frazier can rediscover that first-half success. The team won 90 games in 2021, but missed out on the playoffs by two games. The Mariners hold the longest postseason drought in the sport, last making it to the playoffs in 2001.
Adam Frazier looking to produce before free agency
It’s tough to know what version of Frazier the Mariners will receive. There may have been some luck involved in Frazier’s excellent first half, but he also showed legitimate improvement in his contact skills. Since those contact gains carried over to San Diego, it’s likely Frazier’s regression with the Padres hit harder than expected. He should be better in 2022 than he was with the Padres, but he probably won’t repeat his first-half numbers.
Whether that’s enough to boost the Mariners depends on Frazier’s average and power. Frazier isn’t a big walker, so his upside is limited if he hits .280 or lower. If he approaches a .300 batting average, Frazier’s on-base percentage looks stronger, and that goes a long way for a player with his skill set.
Frazier isn’t a home-run hitter, so he needs to rely on doubles and triples to boost his slugging percentage. That wasn’t an issue with the Pirates. Frazier had 28 doubles and four triples with the team in 98 games last year. That fell to just eight doubles and one triple with the Padres in 57 games.
Driving the ball in the air might be the key to unlocking Frazier’s extra-base power. His line drive and fly ball rates plummeted with the Padres. His infield fly ball rate jumped, suggesting Frazier got under too many balls and started popping things up once he joined the Padres. If that corrects, and Frazier is able to put the ball in the air with more authority, he could be a valuable piece at the top of the Mariners’ lineup.
Frazier has every incentive to make those corrections. Frazier will be a free agent following the 2022 season, and would set himself up for a nice contract with another solid year.