The Seattle Mariners came out last week and announced they would entertain trade proposals for one of their extra middle infielders. While they will listen to offers for both Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, Franklin appears the more likely candidate to be sent packing. Because of stalled negotiations with Stephen Drew, some are suggesting the Mets put together an offer to make Franklin their starting shortstop in 2014.
Sandy Alderson must consider two things before making a move for Nick Franklin. First, what is Franklin worth as the Mets’ starting shortstop? Second, who is he worth trading for?
The Mets played 2013 with a shortstop platoon of primarily Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla. Tejada’s WAR in 57 games was -0.9; adjusted for 162 games, it would have been -2.6. Quintanilla’s WAR in 95 games was -0.8; adjusted for 162 games, it would have been -1.4. When their 162-game adjusted WARs are averaged, it works out to -2, meaning if a Tejada-Quintanilla amalgam had played a full season with the 2013 Mets, they would have been worth two fewer wins than a replacement-level shortstop. Franklin’s WAR for 102 games in 2013 was 2.3 (albeit primarily at second base). Had Franklin played 162 games in 2013, his WAR would have been around 3.7.
The Mets went 74-88 in 2013 with the Tejada-Quintanilla platoon. Changing nothing else from the 2013 season, replacing Tejada-Quintanilla with Franklin would have given the Mets 5.7 extra wins; rounding up, New York would have finished 80-82 in 2013 with Nick Franklin as their full-time shortstop.
Another approach to consider Nick Franklin’s value was the number of runs he produced compared to his Met counterparts. Because Franklin and Quintanilla played a similar number of games in 2013, they will be compared exclusively in this simulation. While Franklin’s batting average (.225) was not much better than Quintanilla’s (.222), his offensive output was significantly greater. Franklin’s OPS (.686) was nearly 100 points higher than Quintanilla’s (.589). Franklin also scored more runs (38-28) and drove in more runs (45-21) than Quintanilla.
Accounting for runs scored and RBIs, Franklin produced 34 more runs than did Quintanilla last season. The Mets scored 619 runs in 2013 against 684 runs allowed. Adding Franklin’s extra 34 runs to New York’s total gives the team 653 runs. The Mets’ Pythagorean win-loss record in this scenario would be 78-84 in 2013 instead of 74-88.
Both approaches suggest that Nick Franklin would have been worth 4-to-6 extra wins last season. And that was when he was 22 years old, one year younger than Tejada and significantly younger than Quintanilla. Franklin turns 23 in a week, and if he develops the way he is expected to over the next few years, the offense he would generate would counteract any of his shortcomings with the glove.
Based on the numbers and the potential upside, Alderson should definitely consider trading for Nick Franklin. Now the question becomes who Sandy feels is worth giving up for him.
The Mariners are said to be after young starting pitching in exchange for Franklin. If there’s one thing the Mets are in no short supply of, it’s starting pitching. Assuming Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are off the table, that leaves Jacob deGrom, Jenrry Mejia, and Dillon Gee as viable trade bait.
In the Mets’ triad of starting prospects, deGrom seems to be the odd man out. While a solid prospect, he has not generated the same excitement as Syndergaard and Montero. If New York does not move him before the start of 2014, the team may move him during the season.
Mejia has shown flashes of greatness, but his health issues may make Seattle hesitate. Perhaps if he is packaged with another young prospect, perhaps Jeurys Familia, the Mariners may be willing to pull the trigger on a trade.
Dillon Gee is not considered young by baseball standards – he turns 28 in April – but he is a proven mid-level starter and would boost any team’s rotation. Mets fans may be unhappy if the team ships away a sure thing, but if both Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are going to join the rotation, someone will have to lose his job. Assuming the team’s to-be-determiend fifth starter is demoted after Montero’s ascention, Gee is the most likely candidate over Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, and Bartolo “Not Harvey” Colon to take a backseat for Syndergaard. The Mariners’ desire for young pitching may be a sign the team is willing to play the waiting game, but if the team feels compelled to win now, they may accept a Franklin-for-Gee deal.
All things considered, Sandy Alderson should strongly consider trading either Jacob deGrom or Dillon Gee to Seattle for Nick Franklin. Franklin may not be as flashy as Stephen Drew, but for the Mariners’ asking price, he is the Mets’ more affordable option, as well as the one with the most upside.