That’s a picture of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Clint Frazier in a New York Yankees uniform. Frazier, Cleveland’s 1st round pick from back in 2013, ripped 11 dingers and posted a rock-solid .843 OPS for the Yankees earlier this season, but the return to health of both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks coupled with the trade for Edwin Encarnacion left him squeezed out of the potent Yankees lineup, something that’s been a similar story though the 24 year old’s early career.
So what the heck is he doing on a Cincinnati Reds blog?
Well, if certain sources are to be believed, the Reds are interested in being opportunistic buyers at this summer’s trade deadline, and are specifically interested in adding a ‘controllable hitter,’ according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.
The @Reds, who rank 3rd in @MLB in team ERA, have the ingredients for a second-half run at a playoff spot, as one NL Central observer said to me this week. The Reds’ front office is open to adding a controllable hitter at the deadline, source says. @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 20, 2019
Frazier, you might notice, is controllable through the 2023 season, and while there have been no concrete rumors connecting the two, that’s precisely the kind of player and scenario that fits this particular bit of rumorese, both due to his contract status and to the positions he plays.
It’s probably worth doing a quick roster breakdown before digging too deep here. The word ‘controllable’ is obviously the biggest nugget here, since it implies that while the Reds are currently a) trying to win in 2019 and b) are stocked with players on the cusp of free agency, any addition of a hitter would need to both help this year and for years beyond. A quick glance at the future of the Reds roster shows Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto entrenched on the infield corners, while Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker will handle at least 2/3rds of the future outfield. Beyond that, though, there are few concrete answers, as the iffy performances in 2019 from the likes of Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler, and Tucker Barnhart means upgrades could well come to kick them down the roster totem pole, while the versatility defensively of Derek Dietrich means he’s not really blocking any addition at any position.
Maybe it’d be Whit Merrifield, the versatile Kansas City leadoff man who is again thumping (123 OPS+) and is controlled cheaply through the end of the 2023 season for the last place Royals. Maybe it’s Mitch Haniger - when healthy again, oof - last year’s breakout star for the last place Seattle Mariners, who is under team control through 2022. Perhaps the Reds even circle back on trying to upgrade at catcher, which they pretty publicly pursued this last winter in their chase of then Miami Marlins stud J.T. Realmuto before he was eventually traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Regardless, this is just one more example of the Reds having numerous irons in the fire this summer, as they may well be both buyers and sellers when the opportunity presents itself. The pending returns of Alex Wood and Scooter Gennett are already going to throw this crowded roster into a bit of positive upheaval, and there’s a very good chance that the Reds could well pursue this yet-unnamed ‘controllable hitter’ while also flipping rental pieces like Tanner Roark, or David Hernandez, or Yasiel Puig, too.
Obviously, impactful ‘controllable’ hitters are rare enough across the baseball landscape, and ones that are readily available are even harder to pinpoint. It will likely take a roster crunch on a contender - as in Frazier’s case - or a player on a last place team looking to cash-in while rebuilding, since it’s hard to envision any good team bound for a playoff push cutting bait with a young regular at the midpoint of a season. And, of course, any acquisition akin to the players mentioned above would certainly cost the Reds a good chunk of prized prospect depth, so it’s going to take some serious weighing of options before any such move gets done.
For now, though, it’s at least worth reveling in the Cincinnati Reds, our favorite team, being interested in both the present and the future again for the first time in some half-decade.