It’s not very often that a high major league ready middle infield prospect with plenty of upside is placed on the trade block, but that’s essentially where Nick Franklin has been since the Seattle Mariners signed Robinson Cano back in December. Despite the presence of Cano and incumbent shortstop Brad Miller the 23-year old was given a chance in Spring Training to earn a major league job, but was optioned down to Triple-A in March where he has spent the majority of the 2014 season thus far.

On Monday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Oakland Athletics are keen on the young infielder and consider him a “top target”. There was nothing in the report to suggest the A’s and M’s are actively involved in trade talks but it’s likely the two sides have at least exchanged some information on the topic as all teams do plenty of their own due diligence throughout the summer months. Franklin’s name has been coming up frequently in trade rumors as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches and was most recently connected to the Tampa Bay Rays in a potential deal for Ben Zobrist and possibly David Price.

So far this year the Athletics have employed a combination of Nick Punto and Eric Sogard at second base and Jed Lowrie has seen a majority of the playing time at shortstop. Lowrie is having a down season offensively owning a .237/.317/.344 slash line and an 87 wRC+ across 395 plate appearances after a strong year at the plate in 2013. He has continued to play his typical brand of strong defence however, so it’s unclear whether or not the club could look to Franklin for an upgrade at short in the present or with more thoughts towards the future. Lowrie will be a free agent after the 2014 campaign.

It seems very likely that the A’s would view Franklin as an upgrade at second base as the club has gotten 60 wRC+ from the position so far this year, which the second lowest total in the majors. For what it’s worth, Mariner second basemen have racked up 122 wRC+ this year, good for second best in the league. Of course that was the kind of performance, for the most part anyways, that’s expected when a club invests $240 million into the position.

Punto, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has played well enough defensively, but has struggled offensively to the tune of a .209/.303/.288 line and a 73 wRC+ in 186 plate appearances — all three are well below his career marks. The 36-year old has always been better known for his versatility in the diamond, but presumably the A’s were hoping for production closer to the 89 wRC+ he put with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year.

Sogard hasn’t fared much better than Punto as his paltry .194/.261/.225 slash line contributes to a measly 41 wRC+. The 28-year old posted a 92 wRC+ in regular playing time in 2013 so as with Punto, the Athletics were hoping for more than they’ve received from the the spectacled infielder so far. Sogard has done his job defensively however, and will be arbitration eligible after this season.

The Athletics need an upgrade at second base, that much is obvious, but whether or not they could match up in a potential deal with the Mariners remains to be seen. They don’t have an available outfield bat that the M’s sorely need and they’d probably be hesitant to trade someone like Stephen Vogt at the moment. Outfielder Craig Gentry, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Texas Rangers, could be an option with regular right fielder Josh Reddick set to return from the disabled list.

Gentry isn’t anything special offensively though his .271 batting average and 83 wRC+ on the year would represent an upgrade over Dustin Ackley‘s performance. The 30-year old is above average defensively and also has 16 stolen bases to his credit on the year. His ability to play center field probably makes him too valuable to the A’s to deal given the fact that Coco Crisp could go down at any moment so it’s unlikely he’d be moved. It’s unlikely Franklin could get Seattle the bat they need, but it’s possible he could extract a starting pitcher.

Left-hander Tommy Milone was demoted to Triple-A after his club acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a blockbuster with the Chicago Cubs and has asked Oakland to trade him according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports. Milone had made 16 starts with the club before the demotion and was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA and a 4.43 FIP. The 27-year old made 26 starts for the A’s in 2013 and put together a 4.14 ERA and a 4.30 FIP across 156 and 1/3 innings pitched.

[pullquote]Milone was a tenth round draft pick of the Washington Nationals in 2008 and was sent to Oakland in a December 2011 trade for Gio Gonzalez.[/pullquote]

In several ways Milone resembles current Mariner starter Chris Young; his fastball tends to sit in the mid to upper 80’s, he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, and relies on getting a lot of ground ball outs. Seattle could use another starter to resolve some of the uncertainty surrounding the back end of their rotation, but there’s no reason to believe Oakland is definitely going to deal the frustrated starter. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time after this season and no team wants to be short on pitching depth heading into the stretch run. He could also figure into the club’s plans for 2015 and beyond.

It’s unlikely that the M’s would be willing to deal Franklin straight up for Milone, and depending on whether or not the A’s would be willing to deal the starter in the first place and add another piece, a match appears unlikely. Also, don’t put any stock into believing a deal couldn’t happen because the two teams are division rivals in a playoff race. Does the situation complicate things? Of course, but the M’s feel the best deal to be made is with the Athletics, they’ll probably do it.

The caveat here is whether or not the two clubs will even allow talks to substantiate and may prefer to try and make deals with other parties and avoid even the possibility of helping the other out. It’s also likely that Seattle could see more benefit from dealing Franklin to another club if they decide they don’t want to hang on to him until the winter at the least.

Franklin returns to the Tacoma Rainiers tonight after missing a handful of games with a finger injury, while the big league club begins a three-game set with the visiting New York Mets.

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Tyler Carmont

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9 Comments

  1. Raul Alcantara’s stock isn’t rising that much. Arismendy Alcantara from the Cubs is the one with the rapidly rising reputation. Franklin’s stock is still WAY higher than Raul. That 3 way deal idea is VERY light for the Rays, and Oakland receives FAR more than they give up.

  2. The same thoughts have crossed my mind in reference to Walker’s start being a potential showcase, however the M’s are pretty tight for options if LMC doesn’t want to start Wilhelmsen again. Walker *should* see another start at Triple-A — wasn’t he sent down there because the M’s weren’t all that impressed with him anyways? — in my opinion given the relatively poor outings he’s previously had. At the same time though Walker strikes me as the kind of player that wants to be challenged and impress the higher ups so it’s possible we may see him even more motivated, but that’s just guessing on my part. If he implodes on Wednesday it won’t kill his trade value, it won’t do anything to help it, but it probably won’t raise any more red flags that aren’t already there. Can all but guarantee there’s 29 other teams that’d be willing to take a chance on Walker.

  3. So Walker gets the start on Wednesday???? This seems forced, maybe to showcase him for a potential trade? Based on his last start, Walker is not ready. I wish him well, but a bad start with control problems will kill his trade value right now.

  4. What about the rumors out of Pit that Seattle has been trying to add S. Marte? Now I would love to see that. Talk about a speedy OF…

  5. @Bus

    Alcantara stock is rising and most likely is above the of Franklin. Franklin’s stock has flatlined or gon.e down and maybe Oaklands best prospect right now after their huge deal to get pitching. If Franklin is to be traded I hope it is a deal with the Nat’s to get S. Souza Jr. To play in the OF. The Nats are looking for a young SS and willing to deal him do to their log jam in the OF.

  6. Yeah, Paul, I agree. Cespedes would be good for M’s., but……who knows what Beane is willing to do. I don’t know how accurate Moneyball movie is but in the movie Beane would do some crazy things. He would make wild decisions while on the phone with other GM’s, but who knows if that is true.

    Jack Z does not operate that way. Seems like he is very careful and every move calculated, very different styles.

  7. I don’t see a match here unless it is a 3-team deal.

    Tommy Milone would be an OK fit, but his peripherals suggest he isn’t nearly as good as his ERA. There is a reason that A’s mortgaged their future to get two starting pitchers, and that Milone was the odd man out. He’s decent, but has little upside. Franklin does.

    Franklin is a great trade chip. He should be able to bring back a young player of comparable talent, or part of a package for a really good player. I don’t see either fit with the A’s. It would be a mistake to trade him for a rental or a limited upside guy. If I were Jack, I’d be looking for a deal that brought back an outfielder who is like Franklin: a young, cost controlled guy who projects as a good everyday player.

    Steven Souza from the Nats is a good example. He’s a RH hitter who is currently hitting .361/.439/.602 in AAA. He apparently plays solid defense in RF, and is from Everett, so has a local connection. He’s 25, but looks like a bit of a late bloomer. He was drafted out of highschool in 2008 and struggled in the minors until 2012, when he flipped the switch and started mashing. Since then, he’s destroyed every league he’s been at. His peripherals are good too: he’s maintained a good ISO and BB rate while cutting his K rate this year. And he can steal some bases.

    Souza is a pretty comparable player to Franklin, although I think Franklin is worth more given his age, defensive position, and status as a first rounder. But the two could easily be part of a bigger trade. The Nats are good right now, but have a bit of a problem with too many guys in the OF with Harper, Werth, Span, and now Zimmerman. They also need help at 2B. Seems like a good win/win for both clubs.

  8. 3-Team Deal *Just some fun food for thought
    Oakland Receives Nick Franklin and Riley Unroe (From Tampa)
    Tampa Bay Receives Taijuan Walker, Patrick Kivlehan, Tyler Marlette and Raul Alcantara(from Oakland)
    Seattle Receives: David Price and Ben Zobrist

  9. The Franklin saga continues! The career of Franklin will be one I am interested in following and seeing how it turns out. He kind of reminds me of former M’s prospect Jose Cruz Jr in the sense of how I feared he would turn out to be a great player after the team traded him. Of coarse Cruz never amounted to much, but I was still sad/nervous when the M’s dealt him away. I don’t see the story/news with a report Oakland would be interested. They just traded Addison Russell, don’t have much upper minor league depth at 2B, the weak position on the team is 2nd base, and they love young and cheap (and cost controlled players) so OF COARSE THEY WOULD BE INTERESTED. I don’t see them willing to trade Cespedes, so I don’t see a good trade fit with Oakland, unless a third team gets involved (like last year when we did a 3 way trade involving Jaso for Morse). Very anxious for Seattle to make a move, the next 9 days should be interesting!

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