By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Free agent third baseman Todd Frazier is switching sides close to home, set to join the New York Mets and take over a spot that’s been in flux since David Wright got injured. A person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Monday night that Frazier and the Mets had agreed on a two-year contract for $17 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was still pending a successful physical.
Frazier, who was a 1998 Little League World Series champion in nearby Toms River, New Jersey, and later starred at Rutgers, finished up last season with the New York Yankees.
The Yankees got him last July in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, and Frazier hit a combined .213 with 27 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .344 on-base percentage. Popular wherever he’s been, the spirited Frazier has always drawn cheers from local fans when playing in the New York area.
“I love playing at home,” Frazier said last year after he was traded to the Yankees, his favorite team as a kid.
Frazier hit 35 homers for Cincinnati in 2015 and won the All-Star Home Run Derby. He set career highs with 40 homers and 98 RBIs for the White Sox in 2016.
A steady defender his whole career, the two-time All-Star turns 32 next week. The right-handed hitter also has some experience at first base, which could come in handy for a Mets team with a pair of lefty hitters at that spot.
The move also means Asdrubal Cabrera is likely to be New York’s projected starter at second base this season, rather than third.
Frazier will get $8 million this year and $9 million in 2019, and the agreement includes a $500,000 assignment bonus if traded.
The Mets made the deal a week before they open spring training in Port St. Lucie, Florida. In what’s been a slow market this winter, Frazier became the latest free agent to find a home.
Last month, responding to fans’ criticism, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon defended the team’s offseason spending and said more moves were likely.
“Being top five in payroll, I don’t think that won us a World Series,” he said then. “So we’re set out to make the playoffs and do well … try to win the World Series, not try and be at the top five in payroll.”
“I get what the fan perception is. It’s not something that’s lost on any of us,” Wilpon said. “I understand the fan base’s frustration and we have the same frustration.”
The Mets began last year with a $157 million payroll for its 40-man roster and trimmed it to $149 million as injuries and poor pitching wrecked their postseason chances. Two years after getting to the World Series, they faded to 70-92 for their worst record since 2009.
Earlier this winter, the Mets gave right fielder Jay Bruce — traded to Cleveland last summer — a $39 million, three-year contract and free agent reliever Anthony Swarzak a $14 million, two-year deal. The Mets also brought back infielder Jose Reyes with a one-year deal for $2 million.
The Mets still have Wright on the roster, but the longtime third baseman’s future is in doubt after injuries and a chronic back condition limited him to 75 regular-season games over the last three years. The 35-year-old team captain hasn’t played in the big leagues since May 2016.
Wright is a seven-time All-Star and is guaranteed $47 million by the Mets over the next three seasons.
“You can never fully dismiss the fact that David may be back. On the other hand, you can’t fully presume that he is,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said last month.