Typically Spring Training rekindles some of the hot stove talk that cools off during January and February as teams are now attempting to make sense of the pieces currently on their rosters and how they’re going to fill their remaining holes. It’s been widely known that the Seattle Mariners are interested in moving Nick Franklin in a deal to improve their starting pitching or outfield since he was displaced by a certain quarter billion dollar acquisition. Currently Franklin is batting Brad Miller for the Mariners’ starting shortstop job, although many consider that to just be posturing on Seattle’s part.
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported that the Mariners are likely to deal one of Franklin and Miller by the time Opening Day rolls around, most likely Franklin, and that the New York Mets could be a potential fit for the young infielder. He would confirm the Mets’ interest in Franklin yesterday and that dialogue between the two clubs has been ongoing since the Winter Meetings according to his source. While the Mets seem content with Daniel Murphy remaining their everyday second baseman again this year, Franklin represents an upgrade over Ruben Tejada who currently projects to be the club’s starting shortstop at the moment.
After having decent 2011 and 2012 campaigns with the Mets, Tejada saw his stock fall considerably and played more games at the Triple-A level in 2012 than at the MLB level. It’s also worth noting that he arrived to camp overweight for the second year in a row. New York has been connected with free agent shortstop Stephen Drew throughout the offseason and remain interested despite not being too keen on his price tag according to reports. Although Drew’s asking price has likely fallen from where it was back in November, he’ll likely still require a multi-year deal with an average annual salary in the $10 million range though, so it’s possible the Mets prefer Franklin who won’t even be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 season considering Drew will also cost a compensatory draft pick if he were to sign.
Even though New York doesn’t have an outfield surplus or a lot of certainty in their rotation, they do have plenty of young pitching that the Mariners would reportedly be interested in. Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard would be a great return for Franklin, but the Mets would probably need to receive a little more value in a deal if they’re even receptive to moving either pitcher at all. Rubin, among other, consider Rafael Montero as a possible bounty for the Mariners’ shortstop and far more likely to be dealt than the other two pitchers mentioned. Montero, 23, has steadily improved in the three years he’s spent within the Mets’ organization and could be ready to start the year in an MLB rotation. He’d also make an excellent mid-season call up if his club prefers to give him some more seasoning at Triple-A to start the year.
Lookout Landing suggests Juan Lagares, an outfielder they describe as the center field equivalent of Brendan Ryan, as another option for the Mariners to consider. Lagares would fill Seattle’s dire need for a true centerfielder and was worth 2.9 fWAR in 2013 despite a rather pedestrian .242/.281/.352 line with four home runs and six stolen bases; he really is that good defensively. A glove first outfielder may seem like a light return, but Lagares is just 24-years old and likely has some more room for his offensive game to grow. Perhaps it’d be best to expand the deal beyond a simple one-for-one swap if Seattle wants to maximize the return on a potential Franklin trade to the Mets, and vice versa.
Earlier today, Rubin tweeted that a potential deal sending Franklin to the Tampa Bay Rays was an injury away from occurring.
The Rays are a curious fit for Franklin on paper considering they have Yunel Escober and Ben Zobrist slotted in at shortstop and second base respectively, although they’ve constructed their roster with plenty of versatile players and could easily accommodate him. Rubin points out that Hellickson wasn’t necessary involved in the deal per say, it sounds like another starting pitcher might’ve been and at the time. But with the right-hander expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the regular season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow earlier this month, perhaps the Rays felt they wouldn’t have enough depth at the beginning of the season to deal a starter as well.
Since Hellickson went down the Rays have picked up Nate Karns in a deal with the Washington Nationals to shore up some of their pitching depth, which could make trading a starter a possibility once again. Karns does only have 12 major league innings to his name at this point, but Tampa Bay has made a habit of churning out quality young arms with little to no big league experience. It’s possible that Matt Moore or Chris Archer could’ve been headed Seattle’s way, but that’s complete speculation on my part. Hellickson’s surgery was announced at the beginning of February, to offer something of a timeline for the reported trade talks.
While there’s still a chance Franklin could be Seattle’s starting shortstop come Opening Day, it appears increasingly likely he’ll find himself opening the year on a different club and the Mariners acquiring a much needed starting pitcher or outfielder.