Pittsburgh Pirates: Evaluating The Adam Frazier Deal, Did Cherington Get Had?

Photo Credit: Gene J Puskar/AP

With a little less than a week before the trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Pirates pulled the trigger on one of their biggest trade pieces, sending Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres in exchange for three prospects. How did the Pirates make out in the deal? A little bit of an in depth look of the biggest trade Ben Cherington was expected to make this year.

The Basics

Padres get:

Cash 

Adam Frazier

Pirates get:

Tucupita Marcano

Jack Suwinski

Michell Milliano

At first glance, the deal looks a tad underwhelming when you factor that the Pirates not only traded the MLB hits leader and a starter at second base for the NL All Star team but also cash that should take care of the rest of Frazier's salary the rest of the year.

Marcano is the main piece to the puzzle here, as he was ranked as high as fifth in the Padres system among outlets (MLB.com), Fangraphs had a harsher grade on him as is usually the case. 

The 21-year old Venezuelan born infielder was a part of the massive international signing spree for the Padres in 2016-2017 signing for $350,000. MLB.com has given him massive praise for his approach at the plate 'Already some of the most advanced knowledge of the strike zone in the organization'. 

In his first season of full season professional baseball, Marcano batted .366/.450/.438 while walking 30 times compared to just 16 strikeouts.

There are concerns on whether or not his power ever develops, but he is still just 21-years old and is posting the highest slugging percentage of his professional career currently in Triple-A, playing in a league that he is nearly six years younger than his piers in.

Marcano has posted a .444% slugging this year in Triple-A, hitting six home runs (15 total extra base hits) and driving in 26 runs all the while still drawing more walks than strikeouts (27:25).

This is coming off starting the year coming off the bench mostly for the Padres, skipping all the way from Class-A ball all the way to the majors. He struggled, yes, but he didn't play in 2020 and was aggressively pushed more than almost any other prospect his age was.

So of course he struggled, batting .182 with a .485 OPS, with a double, three RBIs and 6:9 walks to strikeout ratio.

After being pushed aggressively, there will be no rush, at least for the rest of the this season, and a combination of Rodolfo Castro, Wilmer Difo, and Erik Gonzalez (when he returns) can pick up the at bats lost by Frazier.

It would be nice to see Marcano get some playing time, but honestly there isn't a rush when it comes to 2021.

Jack Suwinski bring an interesting tool set to the Pirates. He has played all three outfield spots but seems to be more suited for right field. According to a scouting report on him, he has a plus arm to go along with above average fielding. He shows above average in game power, but sits in the 'plus to plus-plus' range when it comes to his raw output.

He currently has 15 home runs while posting a .949 OPS at Double-A San Antonio. Strikeouts are a big concern with him, having gone down on strikes 34.2% of his at bats this year.

Michell Miliano fits the bill of a high-risk, high-reward sweetener to the trade. Used exclusively out of the bullpen, the 21-year old righty has posted insane strikeout numbers, but almost just as bad walk numbers. Miliano has posted a 17.70 K/9 mark, but is walking 7.50 batters per nine innings pitched (BB/9).

Thoughts on the trade

This has been tough to process and think, which is why I didn't put something out immediately. I had spoke before about a scenario that included not trading Frazier at the deadline and instead waiting till the offseason.

Part of the reasoning was that if team's don't really agree on the value of Frazier, and only see him still as a super utility type of player, then maybe it's best to hold till the offseason and see where you stand as an organization before you make that kind of move.

Using a hockey story as a comparison, it also showed that Cherington was going to stick to his gun when it comes to what he felt his players are worth, and what they wanted in return, that way it doesn't set a precedent of the Pirates GM coming down on his asking price. 

So what happened?

Kind of feels like part of this scenario played out. The Padres are planning on using Frazier in a super-utility type role, taking advantage of his versatility as opposed to limiting him to one position. So how they viewed him as a player is different than what the Pirates did, or at least a lot of the fanbase did.

Also, power still plays a heavy factor in this league, as shown by what the Tampa Bay Rays gave up in the Nelson Cruz trade. Cruz is 41-years old and is a free agent at the end of the season, but he has 21 home runs on the season, a .542% slugging and a 153 OPS+.

Power is still the end all, be all in the league, and Frazier just isn't that kind of player. 

I'm not sure the Pirates were ever going to get what a lot of people expected him to get. Not saying that we should be happy with the return, that's something that will have to be waited on to see. Now knowing what we know about Frazier, it's hard not to think of Marcano in the same way.

Baseball America says this about him, "Marcano is extraordinarily lean and lacks power, but he knows who he is and doesn't try to do too much. He's a smart hitter who controls the strike zone and makes consistent contact with a direct, compact stroke".

That sounds like what Frazier ended up being, especially when you add in his ability to play around the field. He's a shortstop by trade, but has time all over the infield and has spent some time in the outfield as well.

But when it comes to Frazier, baseball tends to look at a players long term track record, then maybe what they're doing during a career season at age 29. And nothing that Frazier did previously showed that he was capable of being in the batting title race this far into the season. 

2016-2020

Statistic

2021

99

OPS+

129

100

wRC+

130

.323

wOBA

.365

4.05

WPA

1.14

2.4%

Barrel%

1.2%

86.6 MPH

Exit Velocity

85.7 MPH

 

A quick look at some of Frazier's advanced numbers from 2016-2020 compared to what he is doing this season. He was mostly an average hitter throughout his career who never really hit the ball hard to do what he was doing.


Now in his career season, Frazier is actually barreling up less and isn't hitting the ball as hard. While not saying he's getting lucky, I can't imagine making less solid contact than in previous years is a recipe for consistent success going forward.


This isn't to discredit Frazier's season. It's been genuinely entertaining watching his performance this year in a less than ideal season. And it was awesome to see him get the nod as the starting second baseman in the All-Star, something he without a doubt deserved.


It's always nice to think that a player from the team you route for is going to fetch the absolute best in return, but that's rarely the case. A given fanbase almost always overvalues their own roster, just ask Yankees' Twitter how they feel about Clint Frazier.


It would have been a great story for the Pirates' front office, who has done an amazing job stock piling talent, to be able to add another top 100 prospect to a loaded system.


And while at first glance, maybe holding out till right before the deadline might have yielded that, I just don't believe that to be the case.


So i'll take the utility player whose responded to a very aggressive push in the minors this year and still is just 21 years old to go along with another power hitter to go in Altoona with some upside, and a reliever who is striking out almost two batters per inning this season.


What did you think about the Frazier trade? What would Marcano and other have to do to make this feel like the Pirates 'won' the trade? Lets us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the page and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy


Also follow me on Twitter, @AJ_Murfy.

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