After a brief period as a San Diego Padre, Adam Frazier has moved north to Seattle in exchange for outfielder Corey Rosier and swiss army knife Raymond Kerr. At the trade deadline, the Padres added Frazier as general manager and president of baseball operations A.J. Preller sought to bolster the offense during a playoff run.
Preller’s moves didn’t match the division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers (starting pitcher Max Scherzer and infielder/centerfielder Trea Turner) and San Francisco Giants (third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant). But Frazier came to town batting .324/.388/.448 with a .836 OPS, an OPS+ of 127, and leading Major League Baseball with 129 hits. He’d also just played in his first All-Star game.
However, as Frazier played second base and the outfield, his acquisition further crowded the infield.
At the time, Jake Cronenworth had settled in at second base, with Ha-Seong Kim proving to be a defensive whiz at both second and third. Deploying Frazier would take playing time away from each of them unless Cronenworth took over at first and Eric Hosmer rode the pine (neither happened).
As reported at the time, Preller told AJ Cassavell of mlb.com, “Exactly how the playing time will be divvied up, that will be up to (manager Jayce Tingler) and the coaches — in terms of the feel for the pitcher on the mound, who’s hot, possible injuries, matchups we want to play and how we think the game will unfold.” In other words, Preller didn’t have a specific plan in mind when he traded for Frazier.
Even more puzzling, injuries and inefficiency had weakened the vaunted pitching staff led by Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. Chris Paddack and Ryan Weathers had both struggled mightily. Of the five, only Musgrove lived up to his promise with a record of 11-9 over 181.1 innings and an ERA of 3.18. In April, Musgrove pitched the first no-hitter in the franchise history. The bullpen had performed admirably but had been overused as starters lasted fewer innings. Obviously, the Padres needed a quality starting pitcher more than an infielder/outfielder.
The Padres gave up three promising players to the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire Frazier: RHP Michell Miliano, OF Jack Suwinski, and INF Tucupita Marcano. Marcano, who excels on both sides of the ball, immediately became the Pirates’ No. 7 prospect.
Once Frazier’s plane touched down in San Diego, his performance dipped. Over six years in Pittsburgh, he’d batted .283/.346/.420/.766 with an OPS+ of 105 and an oWAR of 9.0. In 57 games as a Padre, he batted .267/.327/.335/.662, with an OPS+ of 86 and an oWAR of 0.6.
After just 57 games, Preller made an about-face and moved Frazier. It remains to be seen where Kerr and Rosier fit in the Padres’ plans.
Left-hander Kerr, who is 27, certainly shows versatility as he has pitched as well as played first and in the outfield in the minor leagues. As a pitcher, he has a record of 11-19 with an ERA of 3.91. The 22-year-old Rosier is an outfielder who was drafted in the 12th round in this past year’s draft. In one year in the minor leagues, he’s batted a promising .380/.451/.570 with a 1.022 OPS.
Last year the Padres broke with tradition and spent money with the big boys. Despite reaching a payroll of almost $180 million, the team had yet another losing season. Preller hasn’t found any takers for Eric Hosmer, who is owed $20 million next year, no matter how hard he has tried. And key players like Joe Musgrove are due for arbitration.
Considering the need to cut back expenses, the trade of Frazier makes sense, especially since he failed to meet expectations. Frazier’s gaudy numbers in the first half of the season attracted the front office. However, the Padres had more need for starting pitching than a second baseman and sometimes outfielder. Plus, the organization gave away three prospects for him.
More importantly, this question must be asked. Does the front office have a blueprint and a solid team plan? Unfortunately, the acquisition of Frazier and his short stay in San Diego show a lack of planning, especially in terms of how he would fit with the existing team. Also concerning, Frazier’s performance as a Padre fell far short of his work over six years.