11/02/12 3:46 PM ET
Free-agent fate weighs on Frasor's mind
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
True, the nine-year veteran has been a free agent before, but never without the shackles of being a ranked reliever. His Type-A status in previous years required teams to part with a pick in order to sign him and all but scared off potential suitors.
This year, though, Frasor hits the open market with the ability to pick his situation without any external issues negatively impacting his overall value. It's an opportunity that would have most players excited, but Frasor is more apprehensive than anything else.
"It stinks, it's stressful," Frasor recently said when asked for his thoughts entering free agency. "The market is just flooded with guys like me, middle relievers. There's just so much competition, there aren't enough jobs to go around, and that's when you see split contracts, Minor League deals -- and that's tough.
"It's nice to go into somebody's camp and knowing you have a job, but it's not usually how it works out. It's tough for a middle reliever, somebody who's not a superstar -- there aren't any seven-year contracts, I'm not expecting that. I'm just looking for what I deserve and hopefully somebody wants you. That's what you're hoping for."
When Frasor joined the Blue Jays back in 2004, he never could have imagined how his career would play out. He spent eight consecutive seasons a prime reliever with the club and ended up becoming the franchise's all-time leader in appearances, with 505.
The number was put on hold in July 2011, when he was dealt in a multiplayer deal that brought center fielder Colby Rasmus to Toronto. It was an emotional moment for Frasor, who couldn't hold back the tears during one final scrum with the local media.
On one hand, Frasor was excited about joining the White Sox -- who had postseason aspirations -- but on the other, he was leaving the only organization he had known at the big league level. It was also the city where he met his wife, and the family has established an offseason home near the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla.
But the time had come to move on, and while Frasor eventually re-joined Toronto during the offseason, it's an experience that will help him this winter. Frasor might have only pitched in 20 games for the White Sox, but it was enough to let him know he's prepared for whatever happens this offseason.
"I'd certainly love to come back, but I'd play for anybody," Frasor said. "Maybe my two most enjoyable months in the big leagues were with the White Sox. It was just a great team, a great group of guys and going somewhere else and seeing what another big league clubhouse is like -- it kind of opened my eyes. I would certainly play for anybody. It's the big leagues, there are no bad cities. But Toronto is certainly on my list."
Frasor said he would like to re-sign with the Blue Jays, but it remains to be seen whether there's a similar sentiment within the club's front office. Toronto bolstered its relief corps prior to the Trade Deadline by acquiring hard-throwing right-handers Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln and Brandon Lyon.
Lyon is set to join Frasor in free agency, but the presence of Delabar and Lincoln could be enough for Toronto to go in another direction. The club will have to decide whether there's enough depth to justify taking a pass on its longtime reliever.
There was a rare moment of swagger from Frasor when he asked if there was still room for him in the bullpen following the latest roster moves. He didn't say it with an attitude -- instead in his usual thoughtful and relatively soft-spoken way -- but the message was clear.
"As far as next year, I'm looking at this team now, I don't think they have seven pitchers that are better than me to throw in the bullpen," Frasor said. "That's the way I look at it. But right now, we have a pretty good bullpen and it would have been nice to have some of these guys for the whole year, certainly would have helped. But we'll see -- you never know how it's going to play out. I feel like I can pitch for anybody."
The timing of Frasor's appearance in free agency isn't exactly ideal for the native of Chicago. He's coming off a year in which he went 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA -- his highest since 2008 -- while also posting his lowest strikeout total in four years.
Perhaps just as damaging is that Frasor spent time on the disabled list in 2012 for the first time in his professional career. A right forearm injury cost him almost two months and for a while it appeared as though he would be done for the season.
But Frasor did return for eight appearances in September. That was at least a moral victory for the 5-foot-10 reliever who didn't want to hit free agency before proving he would be able to bounce back and handle the workload.
"I was coming back no matter what, even if I was sore, I was coming back," Frasor said. "You have to prove that you're fine, you have to show that to everybody. If Alex [Anthopoulos] and Toronto doesn't want me back, then I finish the season on the DL and the offseason becomes a little murky.
"I certainly didn't want to do that, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was coming back. You have to show them that the velocity is still there and you have to finish the season."