Churchill: Potential Tigers Targets For M’s

SmylyPIThe Detroit Tigers have reportedly lost starting shortstop Jose Iglesias for an unknown but extended period of time, and now have some level of interest in Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, multiple league sources told 1090 The Fan and Prospect Insider. The Tigers could look to lure free agent Stephen Drew, who shares the same agent as does Iglesias — Scott Boras — but he’d cost a multi-year deal plus a draft pick.

As with the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays here and the Baltimore Orioles here, let’s take a look at what the Tigers might have to offer the Mariners in a deal for Franklin.

One caveat: It’s difficult to imagine any team, especially a contender such as the Tigers, dealing away a club-controlled regular in a deal for Franklin. It fills one hole, but creates another. For example, some have wondered whether or not the M’s could sweeten the deal to try and pry centerfielder Austin Jackson from Detroit. Despite the presence of Rajai Davis, doing so would create a hole in center for the Tigers, both in the field and in a lineup that sacrificed some offense when they traded Prince Fielder to Texas over the winter. The Mariners do not have a replacement to offer. The same goes for prospect Nick Castellanos, who projects to be the Tigers’ starting third baseman this season.

Drew Smyly, LHP
Smyly is the No. 5 starter for Detroit as the spring schedule nears the final two weeks, which on the surface suggests he might be available in trade. The problem is, the Tigers do not have a clear replacement. Left-hander Kyle Lobstein may be closest, but he’s made just one start this spring. Trading one of their five starters the third week in March creates some issues getting the next arm ready.

They traded away Doug Fister this offseason and did not possess another big-league ready arm. Smyly profiles as a No. 4 starter, perhaps a shade better, but he spent 2013 pitching out of the bullpen — very well, by the way — although he was solid, posting a 3.77 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 19 starts in 2012.

If I am Seattle, who had interest in the southpaw when they eventually dealt Fister to Detroit in 2010, I’d love to have Smyly, but if he’s the headliner in a trade for Franklin I’d pass unless there’s another similarly-valuable piece coming back, even if that dictates sending another player to Detroit with Franklin.

Rick Porcello, RHP
Porcello is a pitcher Seattle showed interest in a year ago, but things have changed a bit since then. For one, he’s now just two years from free agency. Secondly, he’s set to earn $8.5 million this season with another arbitration raise on its way before 2015. The same rotation issues for Detroit apply here as for Smyly: Who replaces Porcello?

Porcello’s salary could also be a significant issue for Seattle, but what’s far more concerning for me is the lack of club control. Franklin is two full years from arbitration eligibility and five years from free agency. The value in controlling a player’s contract and reaping the benefits of his team-friendly salary is understated.

Robbie Ray, LHP
Ray was part of the return package from Washington in the Fister trade, but is not ready for the majors, nor does he profile as more than a back-end starter or reliever. The changeup is solid-average and his fastball jumped a grade to the 90-95 mph range in 2013, but the breaking ball is below-average and appears at least a year from becoming more than a show-me pitch.

Thompson2Jake Thompson, RHP
Thompson, among the scouts to which I have spoken, is a better prospect than is Ray if you’re looking for probability, and he doesn’t lack upside and projection, thanks to a 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame, 92-94 mph sinking fastball, potentially-plus slider and promising changeup. He’s working on a true curveball that could end up a fourth weapon. Still, Thompson is likely 2-3 years from threatening the majors as a reliable rotation candidate.

Any Outfielders?
other than the obvious need of starting pitching the Mariners also could use an infuse of young, athletic outfielders, but the Tigers lack such talent, both in their farm system and on their projected 25-man roster. Torii Hunter is nearing retirement and has one year left on his contract, while Andy Dirks, Don Kelly and Davis are part-time players that lack the upside of an everyday player.

It’s also worth noting that the Tigers do not appear to have any catching depth from which to deal, something few clubs have, all clubs are seeking and willing to consider accepting in any trade.

Again, it’s difficult to find a match here, but if somehow Smyly is a player the Tigers are willing to discuss, a deal could be built that could make some sense. I’ve stated consistently and from Day 1 that any return for Franklin absolutely should consist of talent that helps the Mariners’ 25-man roster right away, not in June or July, not in 2015 or 2016. Right now. That’s what Franklin is to the other team, and that’s what his value to the Mariners should be, regardless of the fact that there is no regular place for him to start 2014.

In the end, I’m not confident a deal will be struck between the two clubs, unless each agrees to expand the trade to include multiple pieces heading in both directions, though that concept complicates the process and likely lowers the chance any trade is made at all.

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Jason A. Churchill

Publisher, Executive Editor, Director of Analysis Jason founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at Inside the Park three years prior. He spent years covering prep, college and pro sports for several news outlets, both local and national, including MLB.com and ESPN Insider. He served as co-host of the afternoon drive show on 1090 The Fan CBS Sports Radio from 2013-2015. He's not done podcasting yet and now serves as managing editor at HEROSports.com.

19 thoughts on “Churchill: Potential Tigers Targets For M’s

  1. Jerry

    It has very little to do with Stanton’s concerns, and more about the team’s desire to trade him for a kings ransom.

    The Marlins have shown, over and over again, that they don’t really give a shit about what their players or fans want. They have a proven track record of letting players think they are cornerstone guys, then dealing them all in fire sales. The one thing we know about this team is that their decision making in trades is pretty ruthless.

    Stanton would be a great addition, but if the Marlins do dangle him, teams are going to be making silly offers. Its the type of trade you probably don’t want your team to win, as someone will vastly overpay for a guy like that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see him on the team. He’s one of the most fun players to watch. But I suspect he won’t be worth it in the long haul. He’s had trouble staying healthy already, and the cost could be Walker, Franklin, plus 2-3 other prospects or young players. Thats a huge amount of talent to give up.

    Its not whether or not the M’s could put together a package. Its whether or not they are willing to beat the next best offer. Stands to reason that at least one team will make an offer that is dumb.

  2. Stanton was quoted as saying he “liked the vibe” in Miami now and indicating he can envision staying around. There’s very little evidence he will be leaving there any time soon, if ever.

  3. Tyler Carmont

    If by ++ you mean Taijuan Walker or someone comparable than just maybe the Marlins listen. They REALLY want to keep Stanton long term and based on reports out of camp this spring, it sounds like he’s warmed up to the idea ever so slightly. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s traded before this time next year. Obviously a lot can happen during the regular season, but if the Marlins were to trade Stanton to the Mariners right now, I don’t see any way it gets done without Walker in it.

    Three months from now a lot can happen. What if Paxton surprises us and shows that he’s a very capable major league number three guy? Suddenly the debate pushes to ‘should the Mariners trade five years of Paxton for one of Stanton?’ Plus, I’m assuming by the time Stanton is looking to secure his free agent years he’ll be looking for around $20 million per if not more. Do the M’s really want to have three $20 million contracts on their books? It sounds like it’s taking a Herculean effort to push payroll close to the $100 million mark this year. Certainly there’s plenty of variables that can occur, maybe Seattle is actually good in ’14 and fans start showing up again, but there’s no reason to get to warm to the idea that Stanton will be a Mariner any time soon.

  4. Garry

    Miami is HORRIBLE at SS & 2B. Detroit has “nothing” Seattle needs, their Farm is completely depleted where I would even question they could get a 3rd team involved because Tigers wouldn’t have anything to offer to the 3rd team either.

    I say stash Franklin in AAA, see if Elias blows everyone away as a 95mph LHP that surprises us all by the trading deadline…If so? Package Franklin/Paxton++ to Miami in a Stanton deal

  5. Tyler Carmont

    I don’t think it nukes his potential, but it would seem foolish to push a solid middle infielder to a brand new position, especially right now. It really just depends on what the M’s long term plans are for him. It seems like they’d prefer to deal him right now while his value is up, but they know as well as the rest of us there’s no sense in selling low on him. Even letting him spend April in Triple-A while other teams sort themselves out isn’t a terrible scenario.

  6. rjfrik

    Franklin is much more valuable as a middle infielder, JJ Hardy type then an OF.

  7. Jerry

    Why does everyone think this is a good idea????

    Obviously, moving a player to another position isn’t easy. It would also nuke his potential contribution to a team. Terrible idea.

  8. Jerry

    Not really.

    Franklin: 106 games, 412 PAs
    Iglesias: 144 games, 465 PAs

    Iglesias isn’t exactly a grizzled veteran

  9. Tyler Carmont

    I don’t think it’s a matter of his athletic ability, I think it’s more of a he’s been a shortstop/second baseman for the last four-five-six years now, and putting him into the outfield now will stunt the progress he’s made as an infielder. Plus, he’ll probably need a year to learn and become competent enough to be a fairly regular outfielder. Remember how it didn’t take Ackley overnight to become an outfielder? Same thing. Outfield is a totally different ballgame than the infield.

    Obviously if Franklin’s to have much impact with the Mariners in the immediate future it’d likely have to be from the outfield, but I don’t think Seattle is ready to push that switch quite yet.

  10. Hackinator

    If Franklin is a good enough athelete to play SS, why isn’t he a good enough athelete to play OF?

  11. Galway

    I think the Tigers are more of a fit for Drew and more likely to throw money at the issue than talent.
    I like the Rays if they want Franklin for 2B. I like their pool of talent.

    The market just does not seem great for Franklin. The Mets do not seem to love his glove. If that is the case then he becomes a bat mostly so his value to them is the marginal difference between him and 22 year old Wilmer Flores who has also hit in AAA really well but has questionable range as he returns to his natural position after being off short for 3 years. I like Franklin better than Flores but if you just look at the marginal value difference that seems Franklin is not a high value candidate for them.

    So who is willing to pay the price the M’s may be expecting? I think Franklin in AAA may ne the best idea and an injury may create opportunity with another team or space in the M’s infield.

  12. Nighthawk180

    Not necessarily Ed. The tigers were said to be looking internally for options to replace Iglesias out with stress fractures in both shins. There has been reports that the tigers have inquired about Franklin also. I think they maybe looking for a cheaper stop gap type of guy for the time being. Drew is available and they have said they dont see him as a fit. The problem with tigers and franklin is once Iglesias is back playing where is he gonna play for them ? They have Kinsler at 2b, I guess they could move him to first or whatever but thats a bigger type move for a stop gap sort of move. I think they will stay internal or do a bulk type trade with multiple pieces going both ways or three ways as some others have suggested. The teams match up better if more players are involved.

  13. Edman

    Simple math. The Tigers want to win now. Franklin is not a guy who can likely make that happen. They would more likely seek a veteran for the time that Iglesias is out.

  14. ripperlv

    If the M’s like the OF combination with Almonte starting in CF, I don’t see Franklin going anywhere. Of course that could change with a decent starting pitcher being offered for trade. But I think the M’s want to go with what they got. I predict Franklin starting in Tacoma. I still think the M’s should have signed another starting pitcher like Jimenez and traded for a good CF, but that is water under the bridge. Hope these guys prove me wrong and put up some good numbers.

  15. Jerry

    I don’t see the Tigers as a great match, unless the Tigers just blow the M’s away, or a third team is involved.

    The Tigers have shown that they aren’t afraid to make deals, and typically move fast when a need arises (the Prince Fielder signing the best example). Who knows. Maybe the Tigers put together an offer that is just too good to pass up.

    Obviously, it would complicate things. But the best thing could be a three-team trade. There should be lots of teams looking for pitching right now. The M’s are also nearing a roster crunch soon, and could include multiple pieces to open up roster spots for guys like Scott Baker, Dominic Leone, Carson Smith, Randy Wolf, or Roenis Elias. Pitchers like Porcello, Smyly, etc might have more value to a third team, with the M’s potentially getting an OFer.

    At this point, I’d rather see the team look at upside guys. Trading Franklin for a solid #4 starter doesn’t seem like the best move. Porcello is interesting because he has far more upside than the typical pitcher at this point in their career, but the M’s have some pitching depth. I’d rather see them take a riskier plalyer who might develop into a monster.

  16. I agree with Jason, there’s just not a lot of realistic value available to come back to us for Franklin from Detroit that they would be willing to part with.

  17. Tyler Carmont

    We keep assuming that the market for Fister never came to fruition, but it sounds more like Dombrowski never intended for one to develop. It sounds like he wanted a very, very specific package of players and was content with what they received from Washington. If you listen to what other teams have said about the situation, you’ll hear things like “we didn’t even know he was available” or “we could have offered something more if we knew”. Dombrowski is a very smart GM and I think that if he was purely looking to maximize value in a Fister trade, he would’ve put him on the block and said best offer takes him. But since that wasn’t the case, we can’t really assume that there would’ve been a market.

    I do agree with you in the sense that there’s a bit of a depth issue now, but considering everything we’ve heard about the budgetary restrictions Detroit was under, the trading of an $8 million player was probably necessary in order to sign a player like Rajai Davis. I still believe it would’ve been in the Tigers’ best interest to keep Fister, but we don’t know the entirety of their motivation for trading him.

  18. MarinerCoug

    Yet another reason the Fister to Wash trade was so stupid… They’ve already lost Dirks and Iglesias to injury, and have no depth to fill in; depth that could have been accounted for had DD been a bit more patient and waited for a Fister market to heat up.

  19. Paul Martin

    Detroit? Past trades with them include us “GIFTING” them players like Carlos Guillen and Fister. They make me very nervous to start with. When you add to the fact I don’t really like what they would be WILLING to give us in return and you get the “no thanks” response from me.

    Maybe I should start the “Keep Franklin and leave him in AAA for a year” campaign. Anyone else want to join?

DISCUSS