With newly signed Robinson Cano entrenched at second base, the Mariners have a glut of middle infielders. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, one of those players – most likely Nick Franklin – will be dealt prior to opening day.
Franklin, a switch-hitter who turns 23 on March 2nd, is a natural shortstop who spent the majority of his rookie season in Seattle playing second base.
In 412 plate appearances spanning 102 games for the Mariners in 2013, Franklin had a triple slash of .225/.303/.382 to go along with 12 home runs, 20 doubles, and 45 runs batted in.
Most reports indicate that the Mariners will be looking to acquire a young starting pitcher as part of a deal for Franklin.
While Franklin would serve as an upgrade at the plate for the Mets, most observers feel that he’s a below average defender at shortstop – someone who would be better served switching to second base full time. According to Baseball Prospectus:
No matter where he plays in the field Franklin is a bat-first player. He is limited at shortstop, offering only modest range and an arm that earns below-average to fringe-average grades. He has decent hands and solid instincts but they are not enough to make him a palatable defender on the left side of the infield long term.
While questioning Franklin’s ability to stick at shortstop, Baseball Prospectus offered this take on his offensive game:
Franklin stands out for his ability to make consistent hard contact and drive the ball to all fields. He has a line-drive swing that will max out with 15-18 home runs a year, but should also generate 30-plus doubles at his peak. Franklin’s swing is simple and compact from the left side, allowing him to work counts and hit for a high average. From the right side, Franklin’s swing has a tendency to get long, adding more miss to his game and resulting in less punch. Franklin projects as an above average to plus hitter with good power and the ability to steal 10-15 bases a year thanks to average speed and decent baserunning instincts.
…the question for the Mets (and other teams) is whether they feel Franklin’s defensive shortcomings are outweighed by his offensive potential.
The Mets are still engaged in discussions with Scott Boras regarding free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, but Franklin is an intriguing alternative option.
If Franklin hits his offensive projections, he’ll be extremely valuable if he can simply play average defense at shortstop. It remains to be seen if he can, but it may be a worthy gamble to take.