What went wrong with Clint Frazier as a Yankee?
For manager Aaron Boone, it boiled down to what often is the case when a can’t-miss prospect such as Frazier — whose disappointing career in pinstripes likely came to an end Friday when he was designated for assignment — misses (at least in the Bronx).
"Big leagues [are] hard," Boone said Monday morning outside the Stadium, where he spent time handing out groceries to needy Bronx residents as part of a monthly initiative between the Yankees and the Food Bank for New York City. "Fortunately for him, his story’s not complete from a baseball standpoint. Obviously, he’s dealt with different injuries and things that have kept him [off] the field at times. But I feel like if he gets the right opportunity and the right health, he still has an opportunity to write a really good career story."
At the trade deadline in 2016, when Frazier was the centerpiece acquisition from Cleveland in the Andrew Miller trade and general manager Brian Cashman tagged the outfielder with the forever line about his "legendary bat speed," it seemed certain that story would unfold in New York.
But Frazier, though demonstrating considerable ability at the plate on occasion, never got his footing.
He rubbed plenty in the clubhouse the wrong way, including CC Sabathia, during his first spring training in 2017 (Google "Clint Frazier" and "haircut"). He seemed to put that behind him, making his big-league debut later in the year with a double and home run on that July 1 night in Houston, and finished out the season without making much in the way of news.
The injury issues began in spring training the following year when Frazier suffered a concussion during a late February game against the Pirates in Bradenton, Florida. He crashed into the leftfield wall in pursuit of a fly ball, essentially wiping out his 2018 season as he made only 41 plate appearances in 15 games.
Frazier’s 2019 season got off to a promising start, but a precipitous downturn began June 2 after he mishandled three balls during a Sunday night game against the Red Sox and heard the other side of things from Stadium fans who previously had showered him with nothing but adulation.
Frazier declined to talk to the media after that game, which did not go over well in the organization — including plenty of corners of the clubhouse, especially among some veterans. Frazier further hurt himself organizationally — including the clubhouse again — a couple of weeks later with his reaction to being sent to the minors after the Yankees acquired Edwin Encarnacion.
Frazier showed offensive promise in 2019-20, hitting 20 homers and driving in 64 runs in 108 total games and compiling a .267/.347/.497 slash line. After a 2020 season in which he made no waves, he was anointed the starting leftfielder entering spring training in 2021. Though the strides made defensively were obvious, Frazier never hit and saw his season essentially come to an end June 30 when he was placed on the injured list with a still-to-be-disclosed ailment. The Yankees at first called it vertigo, quickly said it was not, but never actually said what it was.
"Yeah, I’m not going to comment," Cashman said Nov. 9 during the GM meetings when asked specifically about what sidelined Frazier, 27.
Cashman also declined to comment on Frazier’s tweet from Oct. 11 that said: "I'd love to have the opportunity to talk about this situation publicly and probably plan to do so soon — my issues have been very personal to me and something i've wanted to handle privately but there's been a lot of inaccurate things reported about my injury that I'll clear up."
That likely will take place with Frazier in another uniform. Despite some of his baggage, that is a near certainty, assuming he’s medically cleared. In a random poll of six opposing team talent evaluators, five said that in the right circumstances, they would be interested.
"Perfect change of scenery guy," one said. "The bat speed is obviously special. Could see him doing damage [elsewhere]."
The Yankees announced Monday that they had traded Tyler Wade — who, along with Frazier and Rougned Odor also was designated for assignment last Friday — to the Angels for a player to be named or cash considerations. Wade, a fourth-round pick of the Yankees in 2013 out of Murrieta Valley High School in California, batted .268 with five doubles, 16 walks, 17 stolen bases and a .354 OBP in 103 games in 2021.