TOMS RIVER – There will be lots of Frank Sinatra music at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
According to multiple sources, the Mets signed two-time All-Star Todd Frazier, the former Toms River East American Little League and Toms River High School South standout, to a two-year contract Monday, Feb. 5. The pact is worth $17 million. The Mets have not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical for the avid Sinatra fan and ex-Rutgers University star.
The contract calls for Frazier, a Toms River resident, to be paid $8 million this year and $9 million in 2019. It’s a pay cut in a slow free-agent market for Frazier, who earned $20.25 million over the past two seasons, Sports Illustrated reported.
Frazier, who turns 32 on Feb. 12, belted 27 home runs in 147 regular-season games last year with the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. The White Sox traded Frazier to the Yankees during the regular season and Frazier helped the Yankees come within one victory of a berth in the World Series, won by the Houston Astros. Opting for a youth movement, the Yankees declined to re-sign Frazier.
The Yankees lost to Houston in the American League Championship Series in which Frazier slugged a three-run home run. Frazier has hit 131 homers with a .786 OPS over the past four seasons. His 175 career regular-season homers are fifth most among active major-league third basemen.
The presence of Frazier, who will play third base, virtually assures an Opening Day starting infield of Asdrubal Cabrera at second, Adrian Gonzalez at first and Amed Rosario at shortstop.
“He’s a great defender,” said Mickey Callaway, the Mets’ first-year manager and the Cleveland Indians’ former pitching coach. “He’s a great base runner, too. He can really run the bases. Every time we’d go into town and played him, our bench coach, who controlled the running game, would come up to me and say, ‘We’ve got to make sure to keep Frazier close at first, he gets that running lead.’ He puts pressure on the other team.”
It was Frazier’s Yankees who knocked the Indians out of the playoffs last season in the American League Division Series. Frazier emerged as the Yankees’ spiritual leader.
“He’s a baseball player,” Callaway said. “And you know what he did at the end of last season when we were preparing to play the Yankees, he made some adjustments at the plate. He stopped chasing balls. He stopped trying to go down there and flick that ball to left, he was laying off balls that he was going after in the past. You look at his average (a career-low .213 last season), but that’s going to change if he continues to do what he did the last month of the season. And he can hit some home runs.”
The deal played well for the most part among the New York media Monday night, Feb. 5 on Geico SportsNite on the SNY television station.
“I love the leadership he will provide the Mets,” commentator Marc Malusis said. “It shows you where the marketplace is. This deal makes sense. He will hit for pop and give the Mets 25-plus homers. He steps into the room as an everyday player and will assume the leadership role.”
“I like his leadership,” commentator Anthony McCarron said. “He brings his bat to the lineup. The Mets’ third basemen hit 16 home runs last season. Todd strikes out a lot. There will be a lot of fresh air at Citi Field with all of the swings and misses. Todd is in the late prime of his career.”
“He can play defense,” commentator Sal Licata said, “but I wanted a speedy guy on offense, a guy more versatile. This is not a bad move. It’s an OK move.”
Malusis said he sees Frazier, who could not be reached for comment, batting in the middle of the order.
“He will probably hit fifth in the lineup,” Malusis said. “Frazier, (left fielder Yoenis) Cespedes, (right fielder Jay) Bruce and (first baseman Adrian) Gonzalez can scare opposing pitchers.”
“Todd is protection in the order for Bruce,” Licata said. “Todd will hit either fourth or fifth.”
Commentator John Harper said he likes Frazier’s selectivity.
“He walks a lot,” Harper said. “He will hit in either the sixth or seventh slot. “The Mets got him at such a bargain price.”
The deal likely means the end of captain David Wright’s days in the Mets’ uniform. He has been slowed by injuries in recent years.
“Todd will be willing to play first base if there is a miracle and Wright can play third base,” McCarron said. “It makes sense for Todd to play third base. At least Todd has some flexibility. The Mets are moving forward, thinking of David Wright as an afterthought.”
“This is officially the end of David Wright as they officially have an everyday third baseman,” Licata said. “I don’t feel playing first base makes any sense for Todd. Unfortunately, I think this means the end for David Wright.”
Since 2013, Frazier has averaged 154 games per season. However, he hit just .242 during that stretch with one strikeout every 4.6 plate appearances. Frazier finished the year with a personal-best 14.4 percent walk rate and a fourth straight 25-homer campaign.
Frazier takes a career batting average of .245 (820-for-3,345), 468 runs scored, 498 runs batted in and 62 stolen bases into this season, He was selected 34th overall by the Cincinnati Reds out of Rutgers in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. He was named the National League’s Outstanding Rookie by the Major League Baseball Players Association after the 2012 season.
He won the Home Run Derby in 2015. He hit .222 (43-for-194), drove in 32 runs, scored 33 and slugged 11 homers, four doubles and one triple with the Yankees during the regular season through 66 games. He drew 35 walks and struck out 54 times. He put up a .365 on-base percentage, a .423 slugging percentage and a .788 OPS for New York.
He batted .182 (4-for-22), drove in four runs and scored three through seven games in the ALCS against the Astros. He led East American, managed by Mike Gaynor, to the 1998 World Series title.
Frazier starred for South, coached by Ken Frank, playing for the Indians from 2001-04. He finished his career with a .443 batting average. He set South career records in runs scored (121), homers (26), stolen bases (78) and walks (81). South won the NJSIAA Group III state title in 2002 and 2003.
Frazier was drafted on the 37th round out of South by the Colorado Rockies in 2004 and declined to sign with the National League club.
He set Rutgers’ career homers record with 42. He was named the Big East Conference Player of the Year in 2007 and was chosen as a Rivals.com All-American.
Frazier, ex-New York Giants star Carl Banks, former Toms River High School East wrestling standout Frankie Edgar (one of the biggest names on the mixed martial arts circuit) and model Alana Pagano will appear at Pine Belt Chevrolet on Ocean Avenue (Route 88) in Lakewood on Saturday, Feb. 10 from 1-2:30 p.m. for a Meet and Greet with fans. Autographs and admission are free. Frazier and Pagano often appear in television commercials for the dealership.