Jason Frasor: Will He Stay or Will He Go?

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Updated 28-Jan-11:The Jays and Frasor have just come to an agreement, and it seems that my numbers of $3.5 and $3.75 million (included in this article days earlier) were right on the mark. He did sign for the first year at $3.5 million, and there is a club option for $3.75 million. Welcome back aboard Jason, and I’m glad you chose not to go!

The Clash summed up a lot of things correctly when they wrote lyrics to their great “Should I stay or should I go” song. All lyrics included in this article were obtained here from lyricsfreak.com.The context was definitely different, but the sentiment was the same. The Lyrics point to a dialect that should be going on right now between the Jays and Jason Frasor‘s camp. Here’s how it sums up:

“Darlin’ you gotta let me know”

I have absolutely no idea what’s being said behind closed doors in terms of how badly the Jays wanted to keep Jason Frasoraround in 2011. What I can tell you is that Alex Anthopoulos did state that “he hoped” and “guessed” that all of the Type A and B relief pitching free agents the Jays had this off season would accept arbitration. It definitely isn’t a disaster when a player, like Jason Frasor, accepts arbitration, but it is the opinion of the majority that teams like the Jays most likely offer them arbitration with the prevailing thought that they’d be able to land the draft picks. Who can blame people for thinking this way after the Jays nabbed Miguel Olivo and simply to let him walk away to land a draft pick. That’s how badly they want draft choices! Alex touched on arbitration and the Jason Frasor situation in this interview from The FAN 590.

“Should I stay or should I go?”

If you’re Frasor, a Type A free agent who was really looking forward to a multi-year contract that never came to fruition, do you trust that the Jays really want to keep you around? Maybe you do when they offer you arbitration, so you do what Frasor did and decide to accept arbitration from the Jays, but only after striking out on a multi-year deal. At least he knows the surroundings in Toronto and he was pretty forced to accept since it’s unlikely that many teams would be willing to bid on a Type A FA like Frasor and risk losing one of their top picks as a result. That’s a very tough thing to decide on when you’re squeezed between a rock and a hard place.

“If you say that you are mine. I’ll be here ’till the end of time”

Do you feel wanted by the Jays? Probably a little since they were willing to gamble with the arbitration process, but not overwhelmingly since they’re reluctant to do a multi-year deal. You do get the sense that if the Jays were willing to commit to a 2 year deal, Frasor would jump on it and be more than happy to remain a Jay. It’s not that he doesn’t like Toronto or the Jays, it’s that he wants some certainty in his future. After all, he stated the followingabout his situation before year’s end:

“I’m really not that picky, as long as I’m not back in the New York Penn League or Korea or something,” Frasor said. “I love Toronto, been here for seven years, I have a lot of roots here, so I’m open to coming back.”

“So you gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go?”

He has given the Jays 7 great years. He has a 22-27 record, a 3.76 ERA and 1.299 whip over that span to go along with 36 saves. Doesn’t that count for something? I’ve seen a lot worse relief pitchers get multi-year deals.

If you’re Frasor, you still may not know how the Jays feel about you and whether they’ll keep you around once you sign (this may be the sticking point since he can’t block a trade if an agreement is made), although he does know that the Jays offered him $3,250,000 – the amount they filed for arbitration. That amount is very close to the amount that the Jays just signed Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch to ($3,500,000), only $250,000 off.

That Frasor refused to sign and decided to chase arbitration instead tells us that he believes an arbitrator will side with him, orthat he really wants to drag this on until it forces the Jays to trade him elsewhere. I think that he believes that the Jays should have offered him as much as Dotel and Rauch as a minimum, and that he may have a really strong case for doing so.

Here are the 2010 stats for all 3 relief pitchers:

  • Jason Frasor(33): 3-4, 3.68 ERA, 63.2 IP, 61 hits, 4 HRs, 27 BB, 65 Ks, 1.382 whip, 4 saves
  • Octavio Dotel(37): 3-4, 4.08 ERA, 64 IP, 54 hits, 9 HRs, 32 BB, 75 Ks, 1.313 whip, 22 saves
  • Jon Rauch(32): 3-1, 3.12 ERA, 57.2 IP, 61 Hits, 3 HRs, 14 BB, 46 Ks, 1.301 whip, 21 saves

He had a lower ERA, fewer HRs given up, and fewer walks allowed than Dotel in 2010. However, his overall whip was much higher and the majority of Frasor’s outings were not as pressure packed as Dotel’s who was acting as a closer for the majority of the season. Dotel also gave up fewer hits and struck out more batters.

In comparison to Rauch, the same holds true in that one is better than the other in some categories, and not in the others. It’s a better comparison though because they are at very similar stages in their careers. They allowed the same number of hits even though Frasor threw 6 innings more, but you can see that Frasor struck out more hitters while walking more simultaneously. So, how do you weigh that? Well, when you consider that Rauch also saved 21 games in 2010, you have to give him a slight edge.

Could a case be made that Frasor will be just as important to the Jays pen in 2011 as either Dotel or Rauch? Definitely. Will it result in a ruling in his favor if this case does go through arbitration (there’s still a chance that a 2 year or 3 year deal could be worked out before the hearing)? I have no idea, but I do know that arbitration is an ugly process, and one that can result in a ton of angst and ill feelings.

“This indecisions bugging me. If you don’t want me set me free”

That’s the great part of any deal made with Jason Frasor,either way he would become a trade asset for Alex Anthopoulos to use as he sees fit, even if the Jays decide to “set him free.” If they trade him, the Jays can get a nice return, and the team acquiring him doesn’t have to give up a coveted high pick. However, the Jays do have to commit to signing him even if they lose their case in arbitration. If they do that, then their either get to keep him around and have some insurance should Dotel and/or Rauch falter, they get to trade him if they find their price and want to do so, or they get to offer him arbitration again after the 2011 season and go through this process again. What does Frasor want? In no uncertain terms, he wants to sign a longer term deal.

Exactly whom I’m supposed to be? Don’t you know what clothes even fit me?”

The Jays know Frasor better than any other team out there. They know what he can do, have trusted his abilities for 7 years, and thus have few surprises when it comes to this case. So, why are they so afraid of handing him a 2 year or more deal?

Frasor, if you remember, had a couple of rough months in 2010. April was an absolute disaster, and June was also rough:

  • March/April ’10 stats: 11 GP, 19.2 IP, 8.38 ERA, 17 hits, 8 BB, 13 Ks, 2.586 whip, .370 average against
  • June ’10 stats: 11 GP, 9.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 13 hits, 7 BB, 10 Ks, 2.143 whip, .295 average against

If you’re the Jays trying to decide on how long you want to keep him around and you’ve lived through these kinds of rough stretches, it’s natural to be hesitant. It’s not like Frasor was a picture of consistency in 2010, and so you have to mitigate your risk and keeping him on a 1-year deal does exactly that.

Still, when you compare those March/April and June stats with his season totals, it tells you just how dominant he was the remainder of the time. His second half stats are most telling of his turnaround come July:

  • 2nd half ’10 stats: 31 GP, 29 IP, 2.48 ERA, 23 hits, 9 BB, 27 Ks, 1.103 ERA, .215 average against

Those are the stats his arbitration team will focus on, and they are more indicative of what the Jays were used to getting during the last few seasons out of Frasor.

“So you gotta let me know.  Should I stay or should I go?”

I don’t see why the Jays would be reluctant to go to a 2-year deal with Frasor when he really does provide them with the stability that many teams would love to have in the pen. They don’t have to use him as a setup man or closer, and can definitely afford his contract over 2-years. Something in the range of $7.25 million for the 2-years ($3.5 for one year and $3.75 for the next) would surely get things done, and the Jays could then concentrate on building the rest of the pen. With the age of Dotel and the Jays losing a ton of experience in the pen this off season, keeping Frasor around seems to make the pen stronger. Doesn’t it?

On a 2-year deal, the Jays could easily move his contract to a contender if they fall out of contention in 2011. The Phillies, Rangers, Tigers, and other contenders always seem to be in need of some relief help, so having a trade piece like Frasor around surely would become a big asset to a GM like Alex Anthopolous. You have to figure that Frasor would be worth a middle of the road prospect to a team in the hunt for a World Series title. With the Jays holding so many “soon to blossom” prospects, adding to their weakest part would only make that stronger, so having Frasor to use as a trade chip could go a very long way to helping the Jays out in the long term.

Unless there are underlying issues we are unaware of (personality or injury issues), I really can’t see why this deal isn’t already done. Either sign him to his $3.75 million demand and trade him, let him walk altogether, or sign him to a 2-year deal. I really don’t see the need to go through the arbitration process when the difference in amounts handed for arbitration is $500,000.

Some fans are already contemplating how and when the Jays and Frasor will part ways. We’ll see how this one plays out, but I for one hope to see Frasor in a Jays uniform in 2011. He has been a valuable part of the Jays pen for a long time, and I have no idea what to expect from the aging Octavio Dotel or some of the younger relief guys like Josh Roenicke. If a 2-year deal or $3,750,000 is what it takes to keep him around, let’s make it happen!

– MG

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