Fare Thee Well: Texas Rangers Sign Jason Frasor

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Jason Frasor, the Blue Jays all-time leader in games pitched, has reportedly signed with the Texas Rangers on a one-year contract worth $1.5M. Frasor’s long tenure with the club along with his humble personality endeared him to Jays fans over the years. He was unabashed about his love for the city of Toronto and his wife, Laura, hails from the city. Frasor was unusually shaken by his trade to the White Sox during the 2011 season. Upon being re-acquired by Toronto prior to the 2012 season, Frasor reflected on his emotions upon learning of the trade: “I think it was the first time I’d cried since I gave up five runs in Atlanta a couple of years ago,” Frasor said.

However, Blue Jays fans didn’t always share a mutual admiration for the durable reliever. Following two solid, if unspectacular seasons with the Jays, during which time he stepped into the role of closer and saved 17 games in his rookie year of 2004, Frasor posted three consecutive years of roughly league average performance, with ERAs north of 4.00 in each season. His strikeout rates declined from 8.5/9 IP in 2006 to 7.4/9 IP in 2007 and 6.8/9 IP in 2007, while his walk rates steadily moved in an unflattering pattern, from 3.1/9 IP to 3.6/9 IP to a gaudy 6.1/9 IP in 2007. All the while, the player for whom he was traded, Jayson Werth, was coming into his own in Philadelphia, posting a slash line of 298 / .404 / .459 in 2007 and was on the cusp of becoming a borderline star.

Some notable late-inning meltdowns led many Jays fans and media types to label Frasor as a non-clutch performer; one better suited to low-leverage middle inning appearances. In retrospect, this collective opinion may have had some validity. Once Frasor was no longer counted on to be a shut-down late-inning specialist, he settled into a remarkably consistent career – unusual for relief pitchers, whose performances are often highly variable. From 2008 to 2011, Frasor posted an aggregate 3.28 ERA and 132 ERA+ (a figure indexed against the league average with park & run scoring environment factors considered). He struck out roughly a batter per inning and reduced his walks considerably.

With his seemingly affordable salary and fairy projectable results, it’s worth considering whether Frasor would have been a valuable final piece in the Blue Jays 2013 bullpen. He’s historically been effective against both right and left handed batters, holding the latter to a .730 OPS for his career, although this ballooned to .915 in 2012 (small sample size: only 82 plate appearances). The Jays were reportedly pursuing free agent reliever Jason Grilli, before he ultimately re-signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates for two years and $6.75M. As a comparison, the 36-year old journeyman Grilli has posted a 113 ERA+ over his past three full seasons (covering four years), an identical figure to that of Frasor over the same period. It would seem, on the surface, that Frasor could have provided similar results at a fraction of the salary.

In the end, the fate of the 2013 Blue Jays season will not rest on Jason Frasor’s presence in the bullpen, or lack thereof. That said, if for no other reason than being a familiar constant, he will be missed.

Fare thee well, Jason Frasor.

 

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