It looked like the White Sox solved their long standing problem at third base when they traded for Brett Lawrie last week. But they really, really solved it by acquiring two-time All-Star Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds in a three-team trade Wednesday that sent outfielder Trayce Thompson, right-hander Frankie Montas and second baseman Micah Johnson to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.
The price appeared to be somewhat significant for Frazier, who has two years of team control left on his contract. The latest MLB.com prospect ratings had Montas as No. 3, Johnson as No. 5 and Thompson as No. 14 on the Sox list.
“It’s never easy to give up homegrown, quality young talent,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “Certainly today was no exception but at the same time we are very aware you have to give up something to get something. We’re thrilled to get Todd.”
Frazier gives the Sox a sorely needed power bat for the middle of the order and a good clubhouse presence. The Sox traded two lower-level prospects for Lawrie during the Winter Meetings last week but Lawrie can also play second base, where he played 40 games with the A’s last season. Frazier was a National League All-Star in each of the last two seasons and a finalist for a Gold Glove Award last season.
“Todd is one of the finer all around third basemen in the league. He is a high-character, smart baseball player who will provide an impact bat in the middle of our order,” Hahn said. “He solidifies us defensively at third base and provides a great presence in our lineup and in the clubhouse.”
Cincinnati received infielders Brandon Dixon and Jose Peraza and outfielder Scott Schebler from Los Angeles.
Frazier, who turns 30 on Feb. 12, will be paid $7.5 million in 2016 and is eligible for arbitration in 2017. He can become a free agent after the 2017 season. A fan favorite in Cincinnati, Frazier batted .255 with 35 homers, 43 doubles, 89 RBI and 13 stolen bases over 157 games with the Reds in 2015. He was one of four players in the major leagues last season to record at least 40 doubles and 35 home runs, joining the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes, Toronto’s Josh Donaldson and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, and the second player in Reds history to accomplish the feat, joining Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson (1962).
“This addresses a spot that has been rather difficult to fill for a rather significant time at third base,” Hahn said.
“It’s never easy to give up homegrown, quality young talent. Certainly today was no exception but at the same time we are very aware you have to give up something to get something. We’re thrilled to get Todd.”
Hahn said the Sox are still looking to upgrade. To what extent, Hahn — as always — is not tipping his hand. Asked if the Sox will pursue a big-ticket free agent — Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon and Justin Upton are still available — Hahn said “we shall see.”
“We’re going to continue to be aggressive on numerous fronts and certainly continue to talk to various free agents as well as other clubs about trades and we’ll have to see how the coming weeks unfold,” Hahn said.
The trade, coupled with the Lawrie deal, significantly upgrades the Sox infield. Carlos Sanchez, a capable defender and switch-hitter, was the starter at second base for much of the second half of the season after Johnson, the Opening Day starter, struggled defensively.
“We have both [Tyler] Saladino and Sanchy, who has the ability to play multiple positions, so there’s room for each of them to potentially contribute in a meaningful way next year,” Hahn said.
While Thompson, the best defensive outfielder in the Sox system who was being touted as a potential starter in center field (with Adam Eaton possibly moving to a corner), made a strong showing when called up late last season, the Sox probably considered the former second-round draft pick’s career .241 average when agreeing to part with him.
“You can’t discount what he did in the six weeks at the highest level,” Hahn said.
“Certainly the track record in the minors tells you a lot about who the player is and at the same time he was fantastic for us for six weeks here in Chicago, which is great for us for having been able to have that success in his development and certainly a positive sign of his potential for years to come. His performance in Chicago was a large part about what made him a frequently asked about player so far this offseason. We weren’t eager to move any of these three players.”
Montas, a mid-upper 90s arm who has touched 102 mph, once projected as a potential No. 2 starter or closer. Johnson will have to find a way to improve defensively to become an everyday major league player.
“These were all players with high ceilings … our scouts and our player development people, they turned these guys into potentially real valuable big leaguers,” Hahn said. “We’ve talked about for years how the purpose of a well functioning farm system is to provide you with championship players at the big league level in Chicago or provide you with the assets to go out and get championship players for Chicago, and while it wasn’t our preference to move any of these three guys, they obviously played an important role in getting what we feel is a championship caliber player.”
“I’m pretty excited, I’ve got to be truthful with you,’’ Frazier said. “I know it’s the American League, I know it’s going to be a little different. It might take a little time to get acclimated, but I just saw the [projected] lineup on TV, it kind of put a smile on my face to see the guys we’ve got. I really can’t wait to see what we’re all about and how we come as a team in spring training.”