In a league where overpaying for talented players is commonplace, the Chicago White Sox broke that trend when they acquired All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds back on Dec. 16.
The three-team deal included the Los Angeles Dodgers, who landed outfielder Trayce Thompson, pitcher Frankie Montas and infielder Micah Johnson in the trade. The Reds received prized infielder Jose Peraza, fellow infielder prospect Brandon Dixon and outfielder Scott Schebler, while the White Sox came away with Frazier.
It became clear in the aftermath of the trade that the public viewed Chicago as big winners in the deal and the Reds as chumps:
Part of the negative reaction surrounding the trade stemmed from irked Cincinnati fans. The 30-year-old Frazier was a fan favorite in Cincinnati, a notion best exemplified when Reds fans gave him a nice ovation after he won the 2015 Home Run Derby in front of the home crowd:
Adding Frazier to the middle of Chicago's lineup will strike a newfound fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, something that surely excites fans and players alike.
In an interview with USA Today's Nancy Armour, White Sox first baseman and fellow All-Star Jose Abreu expressed his own excitement about the acquisition of Frazier with a very concise statement:
"He’s a good player who can hit," Abreu said. "I love it."
Giving up three good (but not great) prospects for an All-Star third baseman is simply nothing short of a steal. The most heralded prospect given up in the trade didn't even come via Chicago. Rather, it was Peraza, the No. 71 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, given up by the Dodgers.
Frazier's contract situation is great for the White Sox in the short term, although there could be some issues long term. Having signed a two-year, $12 million deal before the 2015 season, Frazier will be up for arbitration after the season.
Should the White Sox wish to sign him to a long-term extension, however (and there's no reason to think they wouldn't), they certainly have the money to do so. At worst, the team could deal him at the 2016 trade deadline next July for some prospects if things don't work out this season.
White Sox fans are surely hoping that the Frazier trade ends up becoming this year's version of the infamous (unless you're a Toronto Blue Jays fan) Josh Donaldson trade and for good reason.
The parallels between the two situations are eerily similar. Both players were approaching their age-30 season on underachieving teams at the time of their trade, and both were All-Stars the previous season.
Take a look at their stats in the season before their respective trades:
|Josh Donaldson vs. Todd Frazier: Statistics in Season Before Trade|
We all know how the Donaldson trade worked out, as the Oakland Athletics dealt their star player to Toronto for third baseman Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects. Donaldson went on to become the American League MVP, Lawrie is ironically now the White Sox second baseman after the Frazier trade and the A's finished with the worst record in the AL.
It would be a stretch to say that Frazier will now become the MVP, especially since Donaldson had the benefit of landing in a loaded Blue Jays lineup. Frazier and Abreu are practically the only power threats in the entire White Sox lineup—aside from an occasional blast from Lawrie or the aging Adam LaRoche, of course.
But regardless of the lineup disparities between Toronto and Chicago, the White Sox will almost certainly improve on their 76-86 record last season. Manager Robin Ventura certainly feels that way, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune:
We’re also in the division that has the World Series champion. We know it’s a tough division. Everybody in that division is getting better, and this is our way to improve and make ourselves a viable candidate. So we’re much improved from last year -- just look at the people that we’ve got. But you’re going to have to play to be able to make an impact and make it happen, because it doesn’t happen on paper.
As Ventura noted, the White Sox have the misfortune of playing in the same division as the Kansas City Royals, who are coming off a 95-win regular season. Still, the club has a respectable chance to be playing baseball deep into October.
Todd Frazier, easily the steal of the offseason, helps gives the White Sox that chance.