One Reason to Keep Nick Franklin in the Middle Infield

Giancarlo Stanton.

Miami will not secure a long-term contract with Giancarlo Stanton. Not this season. Not ever. Granted, the Marlins front office will never say this out loud since they don’t want to alienate the remaining fifteen fans. Stanton mostly said it for them earlier today, stating he will “need a season” to evaluate his future with the Marlins, which seems like a polite way of placing one foot out the door while not explicitly saying that he wants out. This much is nearly certain: Miami, hamstrung by a poor television contract that expires in 2020, does not have sufficient revenue to extend Stanton and field a competitive MLB lineup.

The Marlins have won two World Series and, despite this, have a well-chronicled history of divesting higher-priced talent in order to cut payroll. Meddling owner Jeffrey Loria ordered the 2005 post-season fire sale, which left the Marlin with an opening day payroll of just $15 million in 2006, as well as the massive 2012 salary dump. The prognosis is clear and this is not news: Stanton will be leaving Miami. At Fish Stripes, the SBN Marlins site, blog manager Michael Jong concurs towards the end of this article. Much to the credit of the non-Loria front office, the Marlins currently have three promising young outfield prospects in Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Jake Marisnick. All three have been rushed through the minors to the big club. Yelich has been solid in left. Marisnick has the potential to be a five-tool outfielder if his bat lives up to the scouting reports. If Ozuna can hit for power, then he is the heir-apparent in right.

The key question now is mostly regarding leverage; how much young and inexpensive talent can Miami acquire in trade? Miami will ask for the sun and the moon, perhaps Walker and Seager from the Ms, but is that expectation realistic given that teams would be trading for a dwindling amount of service time prior to Stanton becoming a free agent? Obviously, the leverage decreases with each passing month that Stanton remains in Miami. If he is traded at the non-waiver deadline, there will be only two full seasons, plus the remaining one-third of 2014, before free agency. How much young and inexpensive talent is that worth? Is there enough value for the Ms to seriously purse a trade?

Clearly Stanton would look great in the middle of the Ms order alongside Cano. Stanton also would also add talent to an unproven and inconsistent outfield of converted infielders, unrealized potential, and possibly several recently injured knees. Oliver projections suggest Stanton will accrue 12.9 WAR total over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Add another 2.1 WAR (rounded up) for the final third of the 2014 season and the grand total is 15 WAR if he is acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline. Surely the Ms and many other teams make this move if the cost is reasonable.

Over the same two-plus seasons, here are the Oliver projections for some of the Ms young and inexpensive talent (yes, the projections are based on unreliably small MLB samples in some cases, but are used simply to illustrate a point): Kyle Seager (10 WAR), Brad Miller (9.1 WAR), Nick Franklin (8.1 WAR),Mike Zunino (7.1 WAR), Dustin Ackley (3.6 WAR), and Justin Smoak (0.8 WAR).

The cautionary tale pertinent to Nick Franklin is Dustin Ackley, whose value has certainly decreased by moving from second base to the outfield (and from generally miserable performance at the plate). When Stanton is traded, the Marlins will surely be looking for infield help, particularly middle infielders since they are currently starting Rafael Furcal (did not play last season) and Adeiny Hechevarria (-1.9 fWAR last season). This is exactly when you want to have a Franklin in your pocket, and this does not mean a Benjamin.

Franklin is quite valuable to the Ms as a potential middle infield piece in a blockbuster trade and, presuming Stanton is not on the DL and Miami is not in the wild card chase, one specific blockbuster should be forthcoming within the next few months. I would much rather see the Ms hold him as middle infield depth rather than flip him for a marginal outfield or pitching upgrade. If Franklin himself is moved to an outfield corner in order to get his bat into the Ms lineup, his value could end up nil or worse if he is Ibanez-esque (Morse-ian?) defensively. Certainly there are no guarantees that Franklin maintains his value if he stay in the middle infield, but it seems like less risk than assuming he can morph into a corner outfielder of similar value. And, no, I am not advocating that the Ms trade Walker, Seager, Miller, or Zunino.

OK, well I never said it was a good reason.

Author’s caveat: I have recently been somewhat obsessed by Stanton’s situation in Miami, even more since reading Fish Stripes, and doubtless this could skew my MLB world view.

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