Seattle Mariners infielder Nick Franklin has been linked to trade rumors since the club signed second baseman Robinson Cano earlier this offseason. The new York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays have been mentioned in some reports nationally, and I have noted that the Toronto Blue Jays also may make a lot of sense. The problem has been the lack of an obvious return package that suggests Jack Zduriencik should pull the trigger.
I discussed some of those pieces here.
Thursday, CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported that the Baltimore Orioles are another team that has expressed some interest in Franklin. Right now, it appears the Orioles are planning to use Jonathan Schoop at second base. He’s not all that much different than is Franklin in terms of what he projects to bring to the table, including some power from an up-the-middle position. Moving forward, however, it easy to see why Baltimore would like the idea of Franklin.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy is set to hit free agency after the 2014 season, and the buzz on the contract extension progress is, well, nonexistent, suggesting perhaps the two sides have hit a snag. If Hardy is traded as a result, or more likely leaves via free agency next offseason, the Orioles would almost certainly shift Manny Machado back to his natural position of shortstop. Schoop could then move to third, where he profiles better defensively, opening up second base for a player such as Franklin.
Again, however, it’s difficult to find an ideal match. It’s been my argument that despite the M’s not having a spot for Franklin on their 25-man roster, trading him for a piece that doesn’t improve the big-league team immediately doesn’t make much sense, unless the talent offered in returned is an elite one that could help later in 2014 or from the get-go in a year.
I have compiled a list of some Baltimore players that may be among those discussed between Zduriencik and O’s GM Dan Duquette. For the record, there do not appear to be any one-for-one deals that make sense for both teams, which may mean we’re looking at a three-to-five player deal if something is to get done.
Zach Britton, LHP
Britton had shoulder problems in 2011, but is reportedly back up to the low-90s with his fastball and has touched 95. There are questions as to whether or not he can hold up as a starter, but when he’s right he has the stuff to do it. Currently, Baltimore appears set to use him in relief.
Nolan Reimold, OF
Reimold, too, has had some injury issues and has been passed on the depth chart by Henry Urrutia. Reimold has power and profiles as an average corner defender, and he’s out of options, so he either has to make the Orioles 25-man roster or be traded, unless he’s hurt again and starts out on the disabled list.
Brian Matusz, LHP
Matusz, a starter by trade, has been used mostly in relief since struggling mightily in the big leagues initially. He’s been effective out of the bullpen, but many believe he still has starter stuff.
Among the knocks on Matusz is the lack of a weapon versus right-handed batters. His changeup is well below average at present — there was a time it was significantly better — and he has had trouble working effectively inside to righties.
Mike Wright, RHP
Wright is a big, tall right-hander — 6-foot-6 and about 220 pounds — and uses a sinker in the low-90s and up to 95 mph. He repeats his delivery well and uses a cutter and changeup to create weak contact, but his curveball needs a lot of work and has a result he doesn’t project to miss enough bats to profile as a frontline arm. Wright is most likely a No. 4 starter in the Mike Pelfrey mold, but he could be a horse for years.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
The Orioles are simply not going to trade Dylan Bundy nor Kevin Gausman for Franklin, but perhaps in the right mix of a multi-player deal, Rodriguez could fit. He’s not big-league ready, but might be by season’s end and should at least be a factor in 2015.
He’s up to 95 with the fastball and offers an average slider and changeup that each show great momentum heading into 2014, suggesting the left-hander may have three above-average pitches by the time he arrives in the majors.
Tim Berry, LHP
Berry is an athletic left-hander with projection left, but he’s already sitting 90-93 with an above-average curveball. His changeup is probably at least a year away, and his ETA for the big leagues is probably two full years out, but he’s an interesting secondary piece in a package deal.