The Orioles found the left-handed bat they were looking for.
Baltimore announced Thursday that it signed infielder Adam Frazier to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $8 million, a source with direct knowledge of the agreement confirmed to The Baltimore Sun. Frazier, who turned 31 on Wednesday, is the Orioles’ second major league free agent signing of the offseason, joining veteran right-hander Kyle Gibson after the 35-year-old agreed to a one-year, $10 million pact with Baltimore.
An All-Star for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021, Frazier hit .238/.301/.311 in 156 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2022 but is a career .273/.336/.392 hitter. Primarily a second baseman, Frazier also made appearances at all three outfield spots and shortstop last season. He has played six games at third base but none since 2017.
Frazier’s game is built around contact, rather than power. In 2022, he had the fifth-lowest strikeout rate among left-handed hitters, minimum 300 plate appearances, and ranked in the top 5% of qualified hitters in whiff rate, according to Baseball Savant. But he’s also ranked in the bottom 7% of the league in average exit velocity and bottom 3% of hard-hit rate in each of the past three seasons. His 7.6% walk rate, in line with his career mark but below the MLB average for his career, would have ranked fourth among Orioles regulars in 2022.
Frazier figures to slot into the Orioles’ infield rotation that also features Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías and top prospect Gunnar Henderson, most likely as a left-handed complement to Urías at second base, with the possibility of playing time in the outfield and as a designated hitter. Mateo and Frazier were briefly teammates on the San Diego Padres in 2021, with the team designating Mateo for assignment about a week after acquiring Frazier in a trade with Pittsburgh. Baltimore then claimed Mateo on waivers.
The Orioles have several infield prospects in the upper levels of the minors who could push for major league time in 2022, but Jordan Westburg, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby and Coby Mayo are all right-handed hitters. Terrin Vavra, a left-handed hitter, made his debut in 2022, but the addition of Frazier leaves him with an uncertain role entering 2023.
Signing Frazier fills Baltimore’s 40-man roster. It also bumps the Orioles’ projected opening day payroll to about $61 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The increase pushes them beyond one of Frazier’s former teams, the Pirates, for the 28th-largest projected payroll of the sport’s 30 teams.
Gibson and Frazier have received the two largest free-agent deals the Orioles have given out in four-plus years under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, but the club still has yet to sign a free agent to a guaranteed multi-year agreement in that time.
Signing Frazier possibly satisfies Baltimore’s offseason need for a left-handed hitter, given Elias expressed a desire to add one capable of playing the corner outfield or second base, and Frazier could fit both of those needs. Most of the Orioles’ offensive additions of late have been left-handed hitters, with Baltimore signing outfielders Nomar Mazara and Franchy Cordero and infielder Josh Lester to minor league deals while claiming first baseman Lewin Díaz on waivers from the Miami Marlins.
Beyond that area, the Orioles’ remaining desires are another starting pitcher and a backup catcher. Although Elias said last week he is waiting out the top of the catching market before making a move at its lower levels, several starters who would have represented clear upgrades for Baltimore’s rotation have signed elsewhere, leaving the Orioles with limited options that represent improvements on their current group.
The New York Post first reported the terms of Frazier’s agreement.