During the offseason, the Mets identified shortstop as an area they needed to upgrade. Instead of upgrading, they went into the 2014 season with the same two players they used there in 2013 – Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla. Tejada, the starter, is hitting .194 with a sub-300 on base percentage. He’s also looked rather clueless at the plate – often staring at third-strike fastballs that cut the heart of the plate.
There were many reasons why the Mets failed to upgrade shortstop before the season. Among them was Scott Boras’ price for free agent Stephen Drew (that remains absurd).
The Mets were also mentioned as possible trade partners for both Arizona and Seattle, who have extra shortstops. With the season underway and Tejada continuing to struggle, the time to upgrade shortstop is now.
The target? Nick Franklin of the Mariners.
Franklin, 23, is currently playing for Triple-A Tacoma.
In 34 at-bats over nine games, Franklin is hitting .412 with a .500 on base percentage. Yes, Franklin plays in the PCL (where offensive numbers are inflated), and 34 at-bats is a small sample size.
However, the switch-hitting Franklin has always been a plus offensive player. What he’s doing so far this season is unsustainable, but it’s the kind of hot streak a player with his tools is capable of at any time.
The Mets reportedly scouted Franklin during spring training in an effort to determine whether he could handle shortstop full time. Most scouts feel that Franklin has above average instincts, and that he would be average or just a tick below average overall at shortstop.
In addition to the Mets needing a shortstop and an offensive jolt, they’re also about to face a decision of sorts when Chris Young returns from the disabled list – likely in four days.
While most view Juan Lagares in center field every day as a wise, rational decision that won’t take much thinking at all, manager Terry Collins‘ infatuation with the sub-par Eric Young, Jr. is concerning. General manager Sandy Alderson could step in if it comes to it and mandate that Lagares starts, but it would be easier to provide Collins with an alternative at leadoff. Nick Franklin could be that guy.
As it was noted during the offseason, Franklin would fill two glaring needs – shortstop and leadoff. The question remains what it would cost to acquire him.
The Mariners are reportedly interested in young, inexpensive starting pitching, which the Mets have in droves.
The Mets would likely be able to pry Franklin away with Rafael Montero (who has been excelling thus far in Triple-A Las Vegas). Another option is dangling Dillon Gee – an already established big league starter who has less upside than Montero. The Mets could also try to create a package around Jacob deGrom and a sweetener.
While many will be opposed to parting with Montero, the fact remains that if you want to trade for a young, switch-hitting shortstop who hits for both average and power, it’s going to cost something in return that it pains you to part with. Dealing Montero would indeed be painful, but the return of Franklin would likely ease that pain.