Again, the Mariners are going to have to do something about third base eventually. Now Maikel Franco is a significantly more aggressive—and expensive—play at filling the need than France is, but one that could potentially speed Seattle’s timeline up if they were to get him back on track.
Even though their playoff hopes have quickly fallen by the wayside, I would be surprised if the Phillies didn’t upgrade at third base within the next couple weeks. If so, they would then be expected to turn their attention to trading Franco. They don’t absolutely have to trade Franco, as the 26-year-old carries two minor league options, but he’s already two years into arbitration and is making $5.2 million on the year. That’s quite the expensive minor leaguer to have, and one the Phillies would likely prefer to rather to do without.
Because the Phillies don’t have a legit in-house replacement at third base, Franco has spent the entire year on their 25-man and has played in nearly every game thus far. In 2016 and ’17, Franco posted similar numbers the ones we’re seeing this year, but turned things around in 2018. Obviously, that success didn’t last for very long, as Franco is back to hitting well-below the league average in most offensive categories.
There are a few things to be encouraged by, at least. For one, the power’s still there, as Franco has posted a solid .440 slugging percentage with 15 home runs. He also has the 12th lowest strikeout percentage of qualified hitters this year at just 12.1%, tied with teammate and former Mariner Jean Segura.
But while most of his offensive performance this year has been less than ideal, he’s silently having the best defensive season of his career. In 673 innings at third base, Franco has put up a +2.9 UZR—the fifth-best mark amongst all third basemen in MLB.
The problem with adding Franco, however, is where to play him. Unlike France, Franco is predominantly a third baseman with minor experience at first base and nowhere else in his professional career. Seager isn’t going anywhere, at least not until the winter, so Franco wouldn’t have the opportunity to play third on a regular basis in Seattle as the 2019 season comes to a close.
At the very least, you focus on bringing the talent in and worry about positioning later on. If he has to play first base for two months, so be it, and you figure out what to do with Seager later and whether or not you want to carry on with Franco into 2020.