A year ago today, the Reds traded third baseman Todd Frazier, the 2015 Home Run Derby champ and once-future mayor of Cincinnati, to the White Sox in a three-team, seven-player swap. Here are the particulars:
- Traded from the Reds to the White Sox: Todd Frazier.
- Traded from the Dodgers to the Reds: prospects Jose Peraza (INF/OF), Scott Schebler (OF), and Brandon Dixon (INF/OF).
- Traded from the White Sox to the Dodgers: prospects Frankie Montas (SP), Micah Johnson (2B), and Trayce Thompson (OF).
I think the past and still-present angst over the Frazier trade stems from two indubitable truths:
- The Reds prioritized MLB-ready or close-to-MLB ready talent over taking the best prospects available, big-league readiness be damned.
- The Reds failed to move Frazier at the apex of his trade value, which was in the aftermath of his pre-All-Star Break outburst in 2015.
Yeah, it’s still hard to believe both of those things happened. But, let’s press on and examine how the returns from each club are turning out a year later:
In exchange for surrendering three of the organization’s top-10 prospects (per Baseball America), the White Sox received two years of control over Frazier. Prior to trading for Frazier, the White Sox had also acquired Brett Lawrie. As it turns out, acquiring Frazier and Lawrie were simply two additional ill-conceived maneuvers by a front office that doubled down on its pursuit of short-term contention after shelling out $128 million for Melky Cabrera, Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, and David Robertson prior to the 2015 season.
In return for their splashy efforts over two winters, the White Sox lost a combined 170 games from 2015-16. (The writing was on the wall when Chicago started 37-year-old Jimmy Rollins at shortstop on Opening Day 2016 and batted him second.)
As for Frazier, his production waned for a third straight year in what was his age-30 season. In 2016, Frazier slashed .225/.302/.464 with a wRC+ of 102 and an OPS of .767, with the latter two numbers being his lowest totals in the two all-encompassing hitting statistics since 2013.
The good news for the South Siders is that management has realized that the club is going nowhere fast and has recently rebuilt their bottom-tier farm system on the fly by trading ace Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton. Frazier (and a host of other players) could be on their way out, too.
The Frazier trade was a big ole whiff for the White Sox.
Montas (averaging 12 strikeouts per nine innings for his minor league career) was the prized prospect in the entire swap, and though he only pitched 16 innings in 2016 due to injury, the Athletics thought enough of Montas to want him in the package that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers at the trade deadline.
In October, Baseball America slotted Montas as the Athletics’ fifth-best prospect. Also worth noting: the 23-year-old Montas is now with his fourth organization, and it’s unclear if his still-developing repertoire will allow him to stick as a starter.
As for Johnson, the 25-year-old second baseman slashed .261/.321/.356 with a 82 wRC+ in his third stint at Triple-A with at least 300 plate appearances. Johnson has appeared in 43 MLB games and logged a .563 OPS. He looks like a fringe starter at best.
Thompson (who turns 26 in March) has held his own in 397 MLB plate appearances, posting a wRC+ of 101 and a .792 OPS to go along with good power numbers. With Andrew Toles and Yasiel Puig appearing to be the Dodgers’ starting corner outfielders at the moment, Thompson should see some playing time if things hold steady.
In less than a year, the Dodgers used the prime prospect they acquired (Montas) in the Frazier deal and flipped him in another trade that netted them one player (Hill) that was instrumental in their run to the ALCS and another (Reddick) that played a useful complementary role. Johnson and Thompson appear to be on the role player track.
For the Reds, this swap was and will always be about their love affair with Peraza. Peraza’s profile as a contact hitter and speed demon fits the Reds’ affinity for players of that ilk. Peraza, who won’t turn 23 until April 30, didn’t walk a lick in 256 plate appearances last year (2.7% walk rate), but he did slash .324/.352/.411. Peraza’s BABIP (.361) screams regression, but it’s also noteworthy that Peraza’s lowest BABIP at any extended minor league stop was .310.
The sample size on Schebler’s time in the bigs isn’t where it needs to be to draw massive conclusions, but early returns suggests the 26-year-old could be productive in a platoon role in a corner outfield position. As a left-handed hitter, Schebler struggles (.571 OPS) vs. southpaws but mashes against righties (.806 OPS)—just ask Seung-hwan Oh.
Dixon’s OPS though four minor league seasons is .697, but 24-year-old does offer positional flexibility, having played second, short, third, and every outfield slot in the minors.
Aside from justifiable angst over the trade’s timing and the return from the deal, the Reds have made out well in this trade—so far. It’s too early to tell if they *won* the deal—though it’s not too soon to say the White Sox were are clear *losers*—but I’d wager the Reds are, at minimum, a close second to the Dodgers, who displayed impressive asset-maneuvering, but also had the benefit of actively trying to put the best possible team on the field in 2016, a strategy the Reds were not interested in employing.