A report this morning from Oakland Athletics beat writer Susan Slusser, appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle, noted that the A’s may be hot on the trail of a player of one of their rivals, the Seattle Mariners. The player in question is uber-blocked second baseman Nick Franklin, whose job was taken by Robinson Cano and his 10-year mega-deal with the M’s. Franklin was a well regarded prospect in the Mariners organization, who has experienced some hiccups in his attempts to translate his game from the minor leagues to the Show. But, the Mariners wanted to make a big splash, and thus Franklin never got the opportunity to develop.
Franklin has toiled away at Triple A Tacoma for much of the 2014 season, where he’s had a very nice .300/.394/.481 campaign through 283 plate appearances. His major league results have been lackluster overall, though he may still be making an adjustment to the highest level, he’s only 23 years old. His career MLB slash line of .214/.291/.358 is nothing to get excited about, though he’s only received 464 plate appearances at that level. Considering many of those PA took place in his age 22 season, he get’s the benefit of the doubt, not everyone is Mike Trout after all.
The interest from the Athletics is surprising, but not at all shocking. Billy Beane has feasted on exploiting inefficiencies, and finding value in the undervalued. Nick Franklin, a cast off of sorts from what many figured would be his future job for the long term, would make a ton of sense for the Athletics, who just happen to have nobody waiting in the wings to grab ahold of the job.
The tricky part of course is how do two teams, competing for the same playoff spots, come to terms on such a deal? The Mariners figure to want a fairly nice return for Franklin, despite his inexperience, if they were to ship him to a division rival. The A’s uncharacteristically emptied their cupboard to bring in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs, so they may have little to offer in terms of young talent. But there is a way to make this happen.
I broached the subject on Twitter this morning, and it was certainly met with ire and intrigue, but what if the A’s were able to snag Franklin as part of a three-way deal with the Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays involving David Price? There are a ton of variables that would have to fall into place for it to happen, and obviously adding an elite pitcher like Price into the AL West race comes with consequences – but if it were going to happen anyway, it would behoove Billy Beane to attempt to extract something from the deal (Much like he did when the Mariners reacquired Michael Morse from the Washington Nationals, netting catcher John Jaso). Perhaps an extra player going from Oakland to Tampa Bay would be the catalyst to make the whole deal work?
In Franklin, the A’s would get a second baseman who wouldn’t be a free agent until 2020, and one who could potentially hold down the position for the duration of this season as the A’s make their push towards October. The frugal A’s may value that as much as his potential production, over more experienced, but expensive players like Chase Utley, Ben Zobrist, or Martin Prado/Aaron Hill. Sure, it’s a gamble throwing an inexperienced player like Franklin into the heat of a pennant race, but the production the Athletics have gotten from second base this season is not indicative of a World Series contender. Franklin will undoubtedly play with a big chip on his shoulder, eager to stick it to the team that disrespected him – combine that with the prospect of playing in the postseason and it’s a perfect storm for a breakout season.
A blockbuster trade like this could change the entire complexion of the AL West, and potentially send all three contending teams into postseason play. It just might make too much sense.