Todd Frazier’s bat is critical to his new team, but the third baseman’s glove also brings significant — and much-needed — value, too.
As they try to mop up the sloppy mess left by three consecutive losing seasons, the White Sox have been hopeful to not only find players who could hit, but ones also capable of good defense.
While the team’s offense excelled in inducing boredom last season, it finished last in the American League in most major offensive categories. And the defense wasn’t much better. The 2015 White Sox finished 28th in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved with minus-39 and were last in Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-39.5), according to Fangraphs.com.
In Frazier, the White Sox finally believe they have a third baseman that can provide them with both aspects. Frazier was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds earlier this month in a three-team deal that sent Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Certainly the offense is probably the calling card,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “You are talking about a guy who also was a Gold Glove finalist and one of the better defensive third basemen in the game, depending on which metric you trust over the last several years.”
Over the past three seasons, Frazier has averaged six Defensive Runs Saved, which ranks fifth among all qualified major league third baseman. He also has averaged a 7.8 Ultimate Zone Rating, which is also fifth.
Overall, third base wasn’t a huge problem defensively for the White Sox in 2015 because they limited the damage Conor Gillaspie could do when they replaced and traded him by July. With outstanding glovework provided by Gordon Beckham and Tyler Saladino, the White Sox finished 10th in Defensive Runs Saved with four.
But the team’s third baseman also combined to produce a .611 OPS, which ranked 30th, and only hit 16 home runs.
That’s where Frazier comes in. In the past two seasons, Frazier has blasted 64 homers, including 35 in 2015.
The White Sox also hope to receive a similar uptick in offensive production at second base from Brett Lawrie without suffering much of a defensive drop off. A strong defender at third base in his first two seasons, Lawrie is believed to be a very capable second baseman (Hahn called him ‘solid’ and thinks he is an everyday player).
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If he can do that and hit 15 homers, as Fangraphs projects, the White Sox would feel pretty confident they have improved in both areas on the infield. And Hahn would have done so without robbing Peter to pay Paul, as he likes to say.
“While certainly the offense has been a priority, or upgrading the offense, we didn’t want to lose sight of some of the defensive issues we’ve had in the recent past,” Hahn said. “We didn’t want to give away, we didn’t want to exacerbate that problem while addressing the offense. This (Frazier) move helped us both offensively and defensively at a difficult position to fill.”
Next up, the White Sox reportedly are looking to improve upon an outfield that combined for minus-22 Defensive Runs Saved (though minus-16 came from center field). Several national reports have suggested the White Sox are pursuing corner outfielder Alex Gordon, who has saved 94 runs in six seasons.
Even if Gordon were asked to switch from left field to right, he’d provide an instant upgrade over Avisail Garcia, who has produced minus-21 runs saved over the last two seasons.