The outfielder was designated for assignment in a surprise decision by the Chicago Cubs, who also placed pitcher Marcus Stroman on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation as part of a flurry of roster moves Friday.
Wade Miley was activated from the IL to start the opener of a three-game interleague series against the major league-leading New York Yankees. He threw 30 of 42 pitches for strikes over three shutout innings, then exited with left shoulder soreness.
“We’ll get him examined when we get back to Chicago on Monday,” manager David Ross said after his team lost 2-1 in 13 innings. “That’s some of the stuff he’s been dealing with. Felt it on one pitch, tried to push through a little bit.”
Chicago also reinstated catcher Yan Gomes (left oblique strain) and infielder Jonathan Villar (mouth injury) from the 10-day injured list. Right-hander Michael Rucker and infielder Alfonso Rivas were optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
In addition, Cubs reliever Chris Martin was reinstated from the restricted list after spending more than the maximum seven days on the bereavement list. His return meant the club needed to make room for him on the 40-man roster, so Frazier was cut to clear a spot.
The 27-year-old Frazier, once a highly rated prospect, was given only 37 at-bats by the Cubs following his rocky tenure with the Yankees. Signed to a $1.5 million, one-year contract, he was batting .216 with three doubles, one RBI and a stolen base in 19 games. He missed more than a month because of an appendectomy.
“We haven’t been able to give him real opportunities to watch him succeed right now,” Ross said. “Tough decisions. I think we think a lot of Clint and his ability.”
The emergence of rookie center fielder Christopher Morel in a crowded outfield made Frazier the odd man out in Chicago. The team has seven days to trade, release or send him outright to the minors if he clears waivers.
“He was upset. Emotional, would be a good word,” Ross said. “I think he likes it here a lot. I think he believes in his baseball skills, which we do, too. But it’s just one of those really tough decisions we have to make sometimes.”
“He’s worked his tail off and done nothing but be a great teammate here,” Ross said. “All of the players like him, the coaches like him a lot. Again, just a roster spot and we had the move we had to make.”
Selected fifth overall by Cleveland in the 2013 amateur draft, Frazier was shipped to the Yankees at the July 2016 trade deadline in a blockbuster deal for reliever Andrew Miller.
Frazier’s progress in pinstripes was slowed by a concussion and some defensive deficiencies. He displayed his impressive power at the plate at times — but also raised eyebrows with some comments that may have contributed to him falling out of favor with the Yankees.
Ahead of the trip to Yankee Stadium, Frazier recently told the Chicago Sun-Times he was looking forward to seeing some of his former teammates, but there were definitely certain things he didn’t miss about playing for New York.
“You had to be a cookie-cutter version to be on that team,’’ he said. ‘‘If not, then you were, like, a really bad distraction, it seemed like. So I don’t miss being told how I had to look for the last five years.’’
Frazier set career highs with 12 homers and 38 RBIs in only 246 plate appearances over 69 games in 2019. Then he put up terrific numbers during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, batting .267 with eight homers, 26 RBIs and a .905 OPS in 160 plate appearances over 39 games.
But he plummeted to .186 with five homers, 15 RBIs and a .633 OPS in 66 games during an injury-abbreviated 2021 season and was released by New York in November. He signed with the Cubs on Dec. 1, just before the Major League Baseball lockout.
Stroman went on the IL retroactive to June 7. The right-hander is 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA in nine starts during his first season with the Cubs after signing a $71 million, three-year contract as a free agent.
Ross said the right-hander probably hasn’t felt right since returning from COVID-19, but he’s hopeful Stroman won’t be out very long after a little rest and some treatment.
Seiya Suzuki remained on the injured list with a sprained left ring finger, but Ross said the rookie outfielder could still be activated this weekend. Suzuki was set to take a full round of batting practice.