The Royals have signed third baseman Maikel Franco to a one-year contract, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported on Thursday afternoon. The deal is worth $2.95 million with another $1.05 million attainable through incentives:
Deal is $2.95 million with $1.05 million in incentives. https://t.co/jWcOEnVuyE— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) December 19, 2019
Franco, 27, was non-tendered earlier this month after spending the first six seasons of his career with the Phillies. Franco had an extremely encouraging rookie season in 2015, hitting .280/.343/.497 with 14 homers in 335 plate appearances. And while he hit at least 20 homers in each of the next three seasons — including a career-high 25 in 2016 — he never really took the next step in his development as a hitter or a defender. Franco hasn’t been able to get on base at an acceptable rate since his rookie season — he has a .302 career OBP — and he has -32 career defensive runs saved at third base, though he did bounce back after a career-worst 2018 season where he posted -12 DRS. He seemingly exhausted the Phillies’ patience as they tried to turn into a legitimate contender again in 2019; Franco hit .234/.297/.409 with 17 homers over 428 plate appearances, and he was optioned to Triple-A for nearly three weeks in August as Scott Kingery became the Phillies’ near-everyday third baseman.
Franco is expected to get a shot at everyday playing time in Kansas City. He’ll initially slot in as the team’s starting third baseman, per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, with incumbent Hunter Dozier moving to right field — where he saw some action down the stretch in 2019. That means Whit Merrifield will shift to center field, though he’s likely to move all around the field again and could end up seeing a solid chunk of time at second base if Nicky Lopez struggles offensively as much as he did in his rookie season. Alex Gordon’s status for 2020 will also be a factor; Merrifield or Dozier could end up in left field if the veteran isn’t re-signed. The Royals have plenty of young position players who are not significantly less qualified than Franco at this point, so if Gordon returns and someone like Bubba Starling, Brett Phillips, or Ryan McBroom makes a strong case for everyday playing time, Franco may find himself with a short leash, much like veterans such as Chris Owings and Billy Hamilton who were signed under similar circumstances had in 2019.