Todd Frazier and Greg Bird are at opposite corners for the Texas Rangers and at different stages of their career.
Frazier clearly wasn’t the best third base choice for the Rangers, considering their well publicized search for the best free agent Anthony Rendon this season. But the former two-time All-Star can provide some veteran stability after six different players started on the hot corner for Texas last season after Adrian Beltre retired.
“I’m just trying to be who I am, and I’m trying to maintain that position,” said 34-year-old Frazier, with his fifth team and going into his tenth season in the league. “So for me, play with the defense I know, focus on guiding the boys and the rest will take care of themselves.”
27-year-old Bird signed a non-roster deal before spring training, giving him the opportunity to compete to become the first Ranger baseman after suffering from a string of injuries over the past five years with the New York Yankees.
“He’s an awesome, awesome guy,” said Ranger manager Chris Woodward. “His approach to the pot does not swing the balls, which is good for me. But even when he is hit, he does a lot of damage. And talking to him, that mentality obviously corresponds to the performance on the field.”
Teammates during the second half of the 2017 season with the New York Yankees, Frazier and Bird now have lockers next to each other in the Rangers spring training clubhouse in Surprise, Arizona.
Frazier has spent the past two seasons with the New York Mets. Bird only played 82 games for the Yankees in 2018 after ankle surgery, so he was limited to 10 games early last season before being sidelined by a plantar laceration in his left foot.
The Rangers knew that it would not be easy to replace Beltre. The four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner with 3,166 career hits retired after the 2018 season instead of playing in his 40s.
Asdrubal Cabrera, a former two-time short-stop All-Star, was signed last season and moved to third base. He filled that place until it was released shortly after the commercial deadline, so he played mostly second base for the rest of the season for the Washington Nationals World Series champion.
After Rendon left the Nationals and opted for a seven-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels in the early stages of free agency, the Rangers were consistently cited as possible landing points for Nolan Arenado from Colorado or Kris Bryant from the Chicago Cubs when it appeared that one of those three All-Star bases could be exchanged.
Frazier signed a $ 3.5 million deal with the Rangers in mid-January for this season that includes a club 2021 option with a $ 1.5 million buyout.
“Todd, he’s been around for a while and brings a lot of energy, a lot of passion to the game,” said Woodward. “It represents a lot of what we preach internally, just his attitude. … He wants to win. He wants to take him every day to the clubhouse. He is relentless.”
His right arm became a free agent in November when he turned down a final assignment for Triple-A, and was somewhat surprised by an offer from the Rangers.
But Texas had five different players starting at first base last season. Ronald Guzman, a young left-handed who is a strong defender, had the most starts with 72, but only hit .134 against left-handed players. General Manager Jon Daniels said Bird was signed up to compete for the job, not just to be part of a platoon situation.
Bird had played a few games in the Dominican Republic this winter, in what he called a normal offseason.
After 11 home games in 46 games for the Yankees when he made his big league debut in 2015, Bird lost all of 2016 following surgery to repair a torn lip in his right shoulder before his foot was injured in the past three seasons.
“One thing that teaches you is patience. Definitely something I’ve had more than one check after each time strangely,” said Bird. “It drives you crazy while you try, to be honest … you learn patience, you learn to work with what you have, you learn a few days that will not be what you want, but you have to deal with that. And, you know, keep smiling and goes on. ”