With a .294 average, 18 homers and 55 RBI in 313 at-bats, Todd Frazier has been the National League’s best rookie hitter this year. Still, the Reds might struggle to find a role for him after Joey Votto comes off the disabled list, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay reports.
Reds manager Dusty Baker made it clear Wednesday that Scott Rolen will remain his third baseman after Votto reclaims first. Frazier started 51 games at third earlier this year while Rolen was ailing. He’s now started 26 at first base and five in left field.
Putting Frazier back in the outfield following Votto’s return is an option, but it doesn’t sound like Baker sees him as a starter there.
“We played him in the outfield some already. Where is he going to play in the outfield?” Baker said. “Is he a center fielder? We’ve got Jay Bruce, an All-Star, in right field. Is he going to play in front of Jay right now? (Ryan) Ludwick’s got 25 home runs? Is he going to play in front of Ludwick right now?
“Sometimes when you’re on really good team, you’ve got to wait your turn to play.”
Of course, the 26-year-old Frazier has waited his turn. And the fact is that he has 179 points of OPS on Rolen right now. At the very least, the Reds need to make sure he’s out there against lefties on a regular basis. He has a .957 OPS against them, compared to a .740 mark for Bruce.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.