The puzzle that is the Orioles infield just got a new piece.
Where it fits, exactly, is something that will be determined throughout the rest of the offseason and into spring training and beyond. But for now, the addition of Adam Frazier on a one-year deal worth $8 million gives manager Brandon Hyde increased incentive to mix and match his players in different roles and lineup constructions.
There are so many choices, on the horizon and in the foreground, that the signing of Frazier could also create the leeway needed to execute a trade — but more on that later.
In the meantime, before any additional offseason moves take shape, Frazier’s addition gives Baltimore a left-handed bat to pair with an already strong group in the infield. There’s Gunnar Henderson, the breakout 21-year-old who’s a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender next season. There’s Jorge Mateo, the flashy defensive shortstop who was robbed of a Gold Glove award. There’s Ramón Urías, the reliable utility man who earned a Gold Glove at third base. And then there’s the glut of prospects, including Terrin Vavra, Joey Ortiz and, further down the line, Jordan Westburg.
Finding playing time for them all might be a headache.
But in Frazier, the Orioles have a player who fits the mold of what executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias values: He doesn’t strike out, and he can play multiple positions. According to Statcast, Frazier ranked in the top 5% of MLB in strikeout rate (12.1%) and whiff rate (14.4%), which measures swinging strikes per swing. He hit just three home runs, but he can play second base, shortstop and in the outfield.
The plan, with 71 days remaining until spring training, is to have Henderson, Mateo, Urías and Frazier rotate in the field, as well as feature as the designated hitter, a source with direct knowledge of the organization’s thinking told The Baltimore Banner. There’s still room for Vavra to be involved, too.
Frazier is coming off his worst offensive season as a major leaguer, hitting .238 with a .612 on-base plus slugging percentage. His isolated power (ISO) of .072 — a statistic that measures the number of extra-base hits per at-bat — was lower than Henderson, Mateo or Urías last season.
Vavra, whose ISO rate of .079 was similar to Frazier’s, still reached base at a higher clip and held a weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of 97 to Frazier’s 81 (wRC+ is a metric in which 100 is league average for hitters; Vavra, of course, played 40 games in 2022 compared to Frazier’s 156).
But the Orioles aren’t banking on the 31-year-old Frazier being the player he was last season with the Seattle Mariners. He made the 2021 All-Star roster as part of a season in which he hit .305 with a .779 OPS between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres. Power has never been a part of his game — just twice in his seven seasons has Frazier hit 10 home runs — but he has consistently gotten on base each year.
There’s value in that.
And then there’s the possibility of this signing starting a domino effect.
Baltimore remains in the market for another starting pitcher. As the free agent market moves quickly with high-value deals, the Orioles could use some of its prospect capital to trade for an established starting pitcher under team control, such as Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales or Mets right-hander Carlos Carrasco.
To do so, though, might take more than prospects. The Orioles could sweeten a deal for a high-level starter with an already established major leaguer, and by signing Frazier, Elias has a security blanket of sorts. Should he use Mateo, Urías or Vavra in a deal, Frazier can step into a larger role.
It’s all part of the offseason calculus — a calculus that won’t end Thursday, with two months remaining before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota, Florida, for spring training. Perhaps there will be no other moves. Perhaps Baltimore makes a splash with a trade.
Whatever the case, Frazier is another piece added to a crowded puzzle. But he should fit just fine.