It was easy to overlook given the Jordan Montgomery news and the Luis Severino shutout, but the Yankees made a notable transaction yesterday. Clint Frazier, who suffered a concussion early in Spring Training when he crashed into the outfield wall, was activated off the disabled list and optioned down to Triple-A Scranton. His rehab stint is over and he’s now a minor leaguer eligible to be called up.
Frazier being activated and optioned is notable because it tells us he’s healthy. Kind of a big deal! Brandon Drury’s rehab assignment, which started one day after Clint’s, will continue at least another few days because apparently he’s not completely over the irritation in the tendon in his neck that’s causing the migraines and blurred vision. Frazier is healthy with no restrictions and is available to be called up, if necessary. And, of course, his goal is to return to the big leagues.
“I’m just trying to get things back in the groove and hopefully things come around pretty quickly and I can get back up there as fast as I can,” said Frazier to Brendan Kuty earlier this week. “I’ve been getting antsy. I want to get back up there with the team and be part of that special group up there. I’ve got to get through all the hurdles to get there. This is just another one and it doesn’t last long for me to get back up there.”
The Yankees have no room for Frazier right now. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are going nowhere, and even if you think Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner will stink forever because they’re currently slumping, the Yankees don’t feel that way and they’re going to continue to play. As they should. It’s May 3rd! This is no time to pull the plug on them. Point is, even with Jacoby Ellsbury out until who knows when, the outfield is full. There’s no room for Frazier.
It is entirely possible, of course, Frazier will never play another game with the Yankees. He could flame out and never return to the big leagues. That’s always a possibility. I’m talking about the possibility of a trade though. It feels more like a likelihood at this point than a possibility, really. The Yankees always figured to be in the market for another starter, even before Montgomery’s injury, and Frazier is an obvious trade chip given the full MLB outfield.
Frazier is 5-for-23 (.217) in six minor league games since returning from the concussion — he hit a homer and had a walk-off single yesterday — which means basically nothing because he’s in Spring Training mode. He got hurt on February 24th and played his first rehab game on April 24th. Way too early to read into the numbers. I’m a Frazier believer because the natural hitting ability and bat speed is high level. He’s not Gleyber Torres, but he’s good.
Truth be told, Frazier could be needed in the big leagues tomorrow. The Yankees have nowhere to put him right now, but one injury and boom, he’s in the starting lineup. And looking ahead, it’s not difficult to see Frazier taking on a full-time role with the Yankees next season, presumably as a Gardner replacement. That’s a ways away, but it’s not like Frazier is blocked for ever. The Yankees could make it work. Right now though, his most likely role is trade chip.
Now that he’s healthy and playing in games, the showcase begins. Teams will get to see Frazier back in action post-concussion and he’s going to start rebuilding value because, let’s face it, no one is paying full price for an unestablished dude coming back from a concussion. Clint has to show off that quote-unquote legendary bat speed …
The Yankees tried to build a Gerrit Cole trade package around Frazier but the Pirates weren’t having it. They opted for … checks notes … Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran? That’s fine. What other teams could the Yankees approach about a Frazier-led package for a pitcher? The Tigers and Michael Fulmer are an obvious fit. Ditto the Royals and Danny Duffy. Would the Orioles be willing to trade Dylan Bundy within the division? My guess is no.
The trade market has yet to really develop, and inevitably some surprise names will hit the market. Happens every year. In the meantime, Frazier is back on the field and he can begin reestablishing himself as a player and trade chip. As cool as it would be to add another young impact bat to the lineup, Frazier seems to be the best young player the Yankees are willing to trade, so the fact he’s healthy again is important even though the Yankees don’t need him at the MLB level at the moment.