KC Royals make new, but mysterious, deal with veteran

Why Adam Frazier is joining the club isn't entirely clear.
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

After a January lull in player acquisition action that followed a booming December peppered with important trades and free agent signings, the KC Royals have once again stoked the Hot Stove fires. Per MLB.com Royals beat writer Anne Rogers, the club has signed veteran All-Star Adam Frazier.

But while the deal, which Rogers reports has a one-season base with a mutual option for next year, adds a proven and experienced player to an increasingly youthful roster, it raises more questions than it answers.

Why are the Royals bringing Adam Frazier to Kansas City?

This is, of course, the big question. Considering the club's historic attraction to players capable of playing a lot of positions, Frazier's versatility might be the answer; although he's primarily a second baseman, he's spent a not-insignificant chunk of time in the outfield during his eight-year big league career.

But while his versatility might have been a factor, it probably isn't the main reason the Royals signed Frazier. This is, after all, a club teeming with defensively cosmopolitan players not limited to a single position. Maikel García can play third and second bases and shortstop, Bobby Witt Jr. can work at short or third, Nick Loftin has played the infield and outfield, and MJ Melendez is deployable in the outfield corners and, if need be, behind the plate.

And then there's newcomer Garrett Hampson, the utility man Kansas City brought aboard this winter and who may be the most versatile Royal of all. So, if the Royals were primarily thinking about versatility when considering Frazier, they had plenty of it already.

Perhaps the Royals view Frazier as satisfying their well-known desire for a new lefthanded bat. That, too, seems unlikely — although he's enjoyed some good seasons at the plate, he hit only .238 for Seattle two years ago and .240 for Baltimore last season. And while he cracked 13 homers for the Orioles in 2023, Frazier's power isn't what's kept him in the majors for eight seasons.

Could his defensive acumen explain things? Probably not. He's never won a Gold Glove and his OAA and DRS numbers aren't great.

What, then, is the deal?

Something bigger probably underlies the Adam Frazier acquisition

Frazier is a competent, but not dazzling, player, a veteran of both regular and postseason play who, at 32, has been around and might help guide the youthful players who've become such prominent features of Kansas City's big league lineup and roster. But potential leadership and mentoring roles simply can't explain why the club signed him.

What may well be the answer is this: the Royals could be getting their proverbial ducks in a row for more change. Why?

Consider their second base situation. The job seems to be Michal Massey's to lose but, despite the 15 homers he hit last season and the adequate defense he plays, he slashed a depressing .229/.274/.381 in 2023, a line the Royals can't be happy with, and one requiring immediate improvement. In fact, his bat probably puts him in some jeopardy; Frazier isn't the long-term answer if Massey fails, but he could fill in until a better option is available.

On the other hand, many believe the second base solution, if one becomes necessary, is Nick Loftin, whose excellent major league debut last season had to confirm the club's confidence in his Kansas City future. Should KC choose to displace Massey with the versatile Loftin, Frazier could, like Loftin can, complement Hampson utility-wise.

Then there's general manager J.J. Picollo's reported interest in trading for a closer. While that desire doesn't implicate any position Frazier plays, his presence could allow Picollo to package Massey, Loftin, or some other player or players in a deal for a big-name closer.

And maybe that's the answer to the Frazier signing. Perhaps Picollo is strategizing a major trade, and requires the kind of short-term flexibility Frazier could provide to make it happen.

Stay tuned. Things could get pretty interesting.

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