As Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote Sunday, the Phillies no longer consider third baseman Maikel Franco to be an untouchable asset and have made him “more than available” to other clubs.
Franco, 24, posted a .280/.343/.497 slash line with 14 homers in 335 plate appearances during his rookie season in 2015, and as recently as last season, Franco looked like he could be a very effective starting third baseman, hitting 25 homers while posting a respectable slash line of .255/.306/.427.
This season, he’s slumped over the season’s first three months, hitting .221/.280/.365 with nine homers in 289 plate appearances. It’s not abundantly clear why the Phillies have lost faith in him, as the power is still there, he has decent on-base skills, and his .226 batting average on balls in play indicates that he’ll probably start accumulating hits at a greater rate sometime soon.
He isn’t a great defensive third baseman and has -5 defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs, but he’s not an absolute butcher at the position, and one would think his lack of elite defensive skill would be permissible as long as he continues to hit 20 or more homers on an annual basis.
There won’t be much of a trade market for Franco in the near future, as most of the teams that are in contention at this point have superior options at third. The Red Sox are looking for an upgrade at the hot corner, but they have the best third base prospect in baseball, Rafael Devers, at Double-A and have no reason to take on Franco as he becomes eligible for arbitration this winter. The same can be said for the Yankees, who could use an upgrade over Chase Headley right now but will be able to plug in star prospect Gleyber Torres at the position next year.
The Phillies would likely be better served to wait until the offseason if they want to trade Franco, as teams like the Royals, Cardinals, Giants, and Mets could be seeking upgrades at third. That way, the Phillies could find an immediate replacement for him on the trade or free agent market.
Philadelphia doesn’t really have a player in the organization that stands out as an obvious candidate to take over at third if Franco is traded soon. The Phillies could give a shot to top prospect J.P. Crawford, who could take over at short and shift Freddy Galvis to third. Crawford has struggled for the past two seasons at Triple-A, though, and most of Galvis’ value is derived from his defense at short. Other players on the Phillies’ current big-league roster who have experience at third and could bridge the gap for the rest of the year include Andres Blanco, Ty Kelly, and Howie Kendrick.