The trade rumors for Nick Franklin are well known. But why hasn’t a move been made? The Seattle Mariners have a clear need for an outfielder.
The answer, I believe, is that Franklin hasn’t proven the ability to hit major league pitching. He’s what the industry calls a AAAA player— someone who tears up the minor leagues but struggles in the majors. Franklin’s .686 OPS in 412 PA last year confirms his struggles.
Regardless, Nick Franklin is still viewed as a desirable prospect. And he has many years left under team-control. Small-market teams would likely be most interested, most notably the Tampa Bay Rays.
But the problem with trading a prospect is that you won’t get a stud in return (unless he’s nearing free agency). And would Seattle value an outfield prospect in exchange for Franklin? Doubt it. We already have Stefen Romero. We need a proven player, ready to contribute now.
Let’s run a trade hypothetical for Desmond Jennings of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jennings is a quality outfielder, and a right-handed batter. Over two and a half big league seasons, he’s posted a .743 OPS. His defensive skills are good, and he’s averaged around 3 wins-above-replacement per year. He’s an impact player, but not a superstar. He’s arbitration eligible next year, giving him two less team-controlled years than Nick Franklin.
Franklin also averaged around 3 WAR last year (adjusted for full season). Going forward, baseball predictors view Franklin as a consistent 3 WAR player, with upside to boot. So why hasn’t this trade happened?
Well perhaps the Rays just aren’t interested in moving Jennings. But supposing they were, why risk it? Jennings is proven, Franklin is not. It’d probably take an additional prospect from Seattle to land a mid-level impact player like Jennings.
So would you trade Nick Franklin and Stefen Romero for Desmond Jennings? What if it took Franklin, Romero, and Dominic Leone?
Until Nick Franklin graduates from AAAA status, he won’t yield enough trade value to make Seattle’s front office happy. It’s very good news that Franklin’s back in the big show. But where he plays is yet to be determined. And nobody will benefit if his hot-bat-goes-cold while sitting on the Mariner’s bench.