The White Sox hope they’ve found lineup protection for Jose Abreu and an answer to their third base woes all in Todd Frazier.
The team acquired the two-time All-Star third baseman from the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday in a three-team deal. In exchange for Frazier — who hit .255/.309/.498 with 35 home runs last season — the White Sox traded Trayce Thompson, Micah Johnson and Francellis Montas to the Los Angeles Dodgers, which sent a package of minor leaguers to Cincinnati.
Frazier not only provides immediate power — he has 108 career homers — but also legitimacy to a revolving door at third for the White Sox, who have used 22 third baseman since Joe Crede’s last game in September 2008.
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“We are thrilled to be able to add a player the caliber of Todd Frazier,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “We feel that addresses a spot that has been rather difficult to fill for an extended period of time at third base. We view him as one of the finer third basemen in the game, all-around third basemen, from an offensive and defensive standpoint. We are thrilled to be able to add him to the lineup.”
When it came to improving an offense that scored 3.89 runs per game last season, nowhere did the White Sox need more help than on the infield. The White Sox ranked 30th in OPS at second base (.564) and third base (.612) last season.
In the course of a week, the White Sox acquired Brett Lawrie, who had a .706 OPS last season, to play second base, and now Frazier.
Coupled with the free-agent signings of catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro and Hahn thinks like he has upgraded an offense that finished last in the American League in runs, home runs, slugging percentage and OPS in 2015.
“I certainly feel a lot better,” Hahn said. “You’ve got a middle of the order presence, obviously a power hitter with extra-base ability as well and someone to help solidify the middle and make it a little bit tougher to come through. We also feel in the last few weeks that we’ve upgraded catcher and second … So that’s conceivably a third of the lineup where we’ve made progress.”
Frazier, who won the Home Run Derby last July, had a sense he’d be traded since the season ended. The 30-year-old third baseman is two seasons from free agency and Cincinnati is a franchise in desperate need of young players. Even though he’s leaving the only team he’s ever known and switching leagues, Frazier said he’s eager for his new start.
“I'm pretty excited, I've got to be truthful with you,” Frazier said. “I know it's the American League, I know it's going to be a little different. It might take a little time to get acclimated, but I just saw the lineup on TV, it kind of put a smile on my face to see the guys we've got.”
While Hahn talked about the difficulty in surrendering what he did to acquire Frazier he has to be happy about what he didn’t give away. Two players the Reds inquired about most were top prospect Tim Anderson and No. 2 prospect Carson Fulmer, the team’s first-round pick in June.
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Still, the White Sox had to part with Thompson, a defensive dynamo with enough power to hit 25 homers, the speedy Johnson, who hit well in the early part of the season, and the hard-throwing Montas, who came over in the Jake Peavy trade of 2013.
But in the end, the idea of placing Frazier at a position where 22 players have started since Crede’s last game was enough for Hahn to make the call.
“It’s never easy to give up homegrown or quality young talent,” Hahn said. “Certainly today was no exception. At the same time, we certainly are very aware that you have to give up something to get something. While we are thrilled to get Todd, it does sting a little bit to give up the three players we had to give up to get it done.”