Yankees: Clint Frazier worked his way from trade bait to essential star

Clint Frazier #77 of the New York Yankees reacts against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Clint Frazier #77 of the New York Yankees reacts against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Clint Frazier has gone from trade bait to a key contributor for the 2020 Yankees.

When the New York Yankees got Clint Frazier in a deal with the Cleveland Indians at the 2016 trade deadline, there was a lot hype centered around the young outfielder who was selected fifth overall by the Indians in the 2013 draft.

In his first four years in the Bronx, Frazier has had his ups and downs. He has even struggled with his maturity and dealing with media. Not a good combination in New York.

Frazier was on track to make the Opening Day roster back in March with injuries to Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks that would have kept those three on the IL. The coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball on March 12, though, and allowed the wounded Yankees to get healthy — or so they believed.

Clint Frazier #77 of the New York Yankees at bat during the fifth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 03, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

When the Yanks came back on July 1 for their three-week Spring Training 2.0 at Yankee Stadium, the injured trio was ready to begin the season in the lineup.

Frazier still made the Opening Night roster, but after just two games, he was sent packing to the team’s alternate training site at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Over the next two weeks, Frazier would be bypassed on a promotion, and it would have been easy for the 25-year old to get frustrated and have a negative attitude, thinking, “Here we go again.”

He did the opposite, and it’s paying off for the Yankees as we come down the stretch of the shortened 2020 regular season.

First off, Frazier has improved his defense, which has always been a question mark hanging over his head. He has also been a savior in a lineup that has been riddled (surprise, surprise) with injuries in the 60-game season.

Frazier has a .274 average with four home runs and 13 RBI in 62 at-bats. There is no replacing Judge in the outfield or at the plate, but Frazier has provided the Yankees with offensive pop while Gary Sanchez and Hicks have struggled to do so.

Over the last couple of seasons, there have been a lot of rumors about the trades that general manager Brian Cashman has been in on that have centered around dealing Frazier. Cashman has held onto him time and again (including at the ’20 deadline) and that decision looks better and better.

Since returning to the Yankees on Aug. 11, Frazier has been one of the team’s most consistent and patient hitters. For a team struggling to score runs, Frazier has all of sudden turned into one of the more important Yankees bats until they can get some of their injured stars off the IL.

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The strides that Frazier has made, from his maturity, to his defense and more importantly his bat, have been welcomed additions to yet another injury-prone Yankees season. Who would have thought when the season started on July 23 at Washington against the Nationals that five weeks later, Frazier would be the Yankees cleanup batter? In 2020, anything is possible.