Todd Frazier experienced baseball's biggest stage with the Cincinnati Reds, from a gripping five-game National League Division Series loss to the San Francisco Giants in his rookie year of 2012 to that memorable 2013 Wild Card game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh that ended with the Pirates earning their first playoff victory in over two decades.
But Frazier has also been on the other side of things, with the Reds slipping to 76 wins in 2014 and 64 in 2015. Between the end of the 2014 season and the 2015 trade deadline, the Reds dealt away veteran starters Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon, Mike Leake and, most notably, Johnny Cueto, to inject some youth into a team that had rapidly fallen behind the Pirates, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.
As the Reds dealt away plenty of important pieces, Frazier was able to observe how the remaining veterans in the Reds clubhouse handled that swift pivot from contender to rebuilder. After the 2015 season, Frazier was dealt to the White Sox in a three-team deal, and about two weeks later, closer Aroldis Chapman was shipped off to the New York Yankees.
So with the 30-year-old third baseman only having one year left on his contract and the White Sox focusing on acquiring and developing young talent, Frazier knows the drill. He's among the players the White Sox will likely attempt to trade between now and the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, but he has good sense of how to go about his business with his immediate future in limbo.
"(It's) not awkward," Frazier said Friday at the Hilton Chicago for SoxFest. "I've been in that situation before. We know the business how it is, and it is what it is. I talked with Rick (Hahn) yesterday, everything looks pretty good. I probably still could get traded, you never know, that's just the way it goes. But my focus, right now, is on spring training and building relationships right now with the team."
Frazier is one of the most widely-respected clubhouse presences in baseball, which was part of the reason why the White Sox were so keen on bringing him into the fold a year ago (the 40 home runs he hit in 2016 were, of course, also important). As long as Frazier is still in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch and Guaranteed Rate Field, he'll be tasked with leading — both vocally and by example — a team full of inexperienced players who will be expected to contend down the road, but not immediately.
"Don't try too much, don't try too hard," Frazier said of how he'll handle leading a young group of teammates. "If they've got questions, they'll usually come up and ask you and if you see a problem, nip it at the bud right there and we'll go from there. But I don't see any problems. These guys are great right now, I see a lot of focus.
"I saw some videos on some guys — I think (Michael) Kopech threw 110 on a crow hop, so I'd like to face him in spring training and see what he's got, a little challenge yourself kind of thing. Then we go from there."
Frazier's approach is exactly what manager Rick Renteria wants out of his veterans, a group that includes outfielder Melky Cabrera (who has one year left on his contract) and closer David Robertson (who has two years left). While Hahn said it's hard to try to win while going through an organizational overhaul, Renteria doesn't expect that line to thinking to infiltrate the clubhouse on 35th and Shields.
"Those guys are professionals because they're going to come out and play the game to win, to perform, to do what they're supposed to do on a daily basis," Renteria said. "Performance is the name of the game. But they have an understanding of the process that it takes to go ahead and have some of the successes they've had over the course of their career. Them just by example are going to be pieces for us for the younger players and you're hoping that sooner rather than later they become more acclimated to the big league level."
For Frazier, his teammates and plenty of White Sox coaches and front office personnel, SoxFest was a first opportunity to get to meet some of the players who could become franchise cornerstones in the future. Frazier came away impressed with his interactions with the likes of Kopech, Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada, and was upbeat about the potential that could be tapped from those players.
"I think we got really good guys back from the trades, really mature guys," Frazier said. "I talked to a bunch of them already and told them, you might have to fill in a role right away. You gotta take the good with the bad, don't get down because you're going to get hit around, you're going to strike out, but you're going to be here for a long time. That's what spring training's for. I know (Don) Cooper's got the pitchers and (Todd Steverson's) got the hitters. We'll have a lot of meetings and show them the right way to play Chicago White Sox baseball."