Growing up in Georgia, Adam Frazier envisioned nights like the ones he had last fall with the Seattle Mariners, pushing for the first playoff berth of his career.
“It’s something you dream of your whole life,” Frazier said. “You’re sitting in the backyard picturing yourself in those moments, and having that opportunity is what you’re playing for.”
It just happened to come as Frazier was going through the worst season of his major league career. But after helping Seattle end a 21-year postseason drought, the 31-year-old second baseman looks forward to rebounding and again experiencing the thrill of a playoff push after signing a one-year contract with the Orioles on Thursday.
“I can provide a lot of things for the Orioles,” he said on a video call Friday. “Exciting young team. I think everybody got a glimpse of that last year. Just looking at the roster, I think I’m the second oldest now, so that’s exciting. For myself, I got a little taste of being able to be that veteran-type guy last year in Seattle, a lot of the same kind of qualities in that team as Baltimore has. It’s a lot of fun, for me, coming from the outside, just watching them and playing against them, the excitement that they had and the energy they brought each and every night.”
He described his season, in which he followed an All-Star appearance in 2021 with career lows for a full season in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs, as “frustrating at times” but “also the most fun I’ve ever had playing the game” since at least his college days at Mississippi State.
“I kind of put my personal stuff aside and just tried to do anything I could to help the team win that night, and that’s what it came down to,” Frazier said. “It’s truly how can you help the team win, and that’s the main goal every night.”
That mindset will be appreciated in Baltimore, with the Orioles making an offseason effort to build a postseason contender for the first time in executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias’ four years leading baseball operations, with Frazier providing the experienced left-handed bat Baltimore sought this winter. By signing him for $8 million and right-hander Kyle Gibson for $10 million, the Orioles have given out their two largest guarantees to free agents in Elias’ tenure. Depending on what other moves are made this offseason, Frazier will be Baltimore’s highest-paid position player other than Chris Davis over the past five seasons.
Frazier said he had a video call with Elias and manager Brandon Hyde during which Elias asked what adjustments he planned to make this offseason coming off his troubled campaign. After Frazier answered, Elias “pulled up a frame of exactly what I had said.”
“It seemed like they’ve done their homework,” Frazier said. “Seemed like we kind of view things in a similar manner.”
Those adjustments largely focus on Frazier getting a stronger connection between his lower and upper half and doing a better job of driving into the ground throughout his swing, and he’s receptive to whatever suggestions the Orioles’ hitting coaches will have when he meets with them in the coming days. He also hopes to improve his plate discipline and on using the whole field; he posted the lowest opposite-field percentage of any season in his career in 2022, according to FanGraphs.
The result was a .238 batting average and .612 OPS with three home runs, though Frazier’s game has never been about power. His bat-to-ball skills are among the best in the sport, ranking in the top 5% of qualified hitters in strikeout rate each of the past three full seasons, according to Baseball Savant. He’s also been in the bottom 3% in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate the previous two years. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds, Frazier said it’s a byproduct of “understanding who I am.”
“I’m not the big 6-4 guy that’s going to drive the ball out of the ballpark 40 times,” Frazier said.
The Orioles don’t need him to be, with his contract-oriented approach lacking in most other spots of their lineup. On top of occasional appearances in a corner outfield spot, Frazier figures to be part of an infield rotation featuring Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo and Ramón Urías, allowing each to get rest days either as the designated hitter or on the bench. One of the top defensive second basemen in Statcast’s outs above average, he figures the league’s new ban on infield shifts won’t affect him too much and should benefit him as a left-handed hitter.
Baltimore’s only position player older than 28, Frazier could also serve as a mentor to a group of infield prospects who might make their debuts this season, including fellow Mississippi State product Jordan Westburg, the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect who Frazier said he was looking forward to playing with in spring training after meeting a few times while Westburg was in school.
The Orioles have expressed interest in Frazier since early in the offseason, he said, and “the opportunity just to be able to play every day” was also a key part of Elias’ pitch.
“The chance to get back on track, the opportunity the ballpark provides for a hitter like me is pretty enticing, too,” Frazier said. “And then just the opportunity to be on a young fun team that is hungry and really good, so that’s exciting for myself to be able to join up with a group like that.”