NEW YORK (AP) Todd Frazier stood a few feet away, wearing the No. 21 Mets jersey of Cleon Jones, Carlos Delgado and Lucas Duda. New York general manager Sandy Alderson smiled.
In a depressed free-agent market, Alderson added the third baseman to New York’s offseason haul with a $17 million, two-year contract. For a commitment of just $72 million, the Mets brought in Frazier, outfielder Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak while retaining shortstop Jose Reyes.
”Profligate,” Alderson said wryly.
”I think we’ve tried to be opportunistic,” he went on during a news conference at Citi Field. ”Some opportunities arose for us that probably would not have been expected right after the end of the World Series.”
New York hunted the free-agent market for bargains like savvy shoppers at a season closeout. The ever-chatty Frazier, from Toms River, New Jersey, preferred to stay in the area after an enjoyable stay with the New York Yankees last summer.
Peripatetic at calm times, Frazier’s was even more antsy as next week’s start of spring training drew near and he remained among more than 100 unsigned free agents. He repeatedly called his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen.
”Every day it was like, hey, what’s going on here? What do I have to do? Do I have to talk to some GMs? You want me to fly somewhere?” Frazier recalled.
”Let’s not sugarcoat it. It was frustrating,” he added. ”I just feel for the other guys that really haven’t gotten picked up yet.”
On a gloomy, rainy afternoon, the Mets brought in Gary Dunaier for the news conference. He is the fan who was caught by a television camera giving Frazier a thumbs-down last September after a three-run homer against Tampa Bay in a game moved to Citi Field because Hurricane Irma in Florida. Frazier adopted the inverted digit as a rallying cry, and the hand histrionics caught on with Frazier’s teammates for the rest of the season.
Frazier, who turns 32 next week, gets $8 million this year and $9 million in 2019, and the agreement includes a $500,000 assignment bonus if traded.
”Everybody could see what the price was, or where I should have been,” he said.
Frazier was a 1998 Little League World Series champion in Toms River, New Jersey, and starred at Rutgers. He’s already looking forward to Aug. 19, when the Mets play Philadelphia at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in Major League Baseball’s second ”Little League Classic.”
”I knew it was very fortuitous,” Frazier said. ”I haven’t been back there in 20 years.”
Frazier had 35 homers for Cincinnati in 2015 and set career highs with 40 homers and 98 RBIs for the White Sox in 2016. He hit .213 with 27 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .344 on-base percentage last year for the Chicago White Sox and the Yankees, who acquired him on July 19.
”When he got to New York, the bright lights and the big city reminded him of how special it is to play in front of your home town, effectively, and so it was a driving force,” Van Wagenen said.
Alderson expects Frazier to take on a leadership role along with Bruce, who was acquired during the 2016 season, stayed when the Mets exercised his option, then was traded to Cleveland late last season.
”Jay was always on roller skates,” Alderson said. ”Now he’s got some certainty and I think that will allow him to take a larger role.
Asdrubal Cabrera becomes New York’s projected starter at second base. Alderson said the Mets have not spoken with him about the move across the infield.
”He’s a hard guy to get in contact with. Talk to him through a medium,” Alderson said.
Third baseman David Wright has been limited to 75 regular-season games during the past three years and none since May 2016 because of injuries and a chronic back condition.
”I’m wishing the best for David, man,” Frazier said. ”If he’s healthy, we got more wins coming.”
Alderson isn’t thinking about where to align everyone is Wright is healthy.
”Whether he’s healthy and can play third, healthy, needs to play first, we’ll deal with that as we see how his condition develops,” he said.
Notes: Infielder Matt Reynolds was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot.
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