Ted Simmons, hair a little disheveled, top button undone, walked into the boardroom five minutes late. "Sorry," he told no one in particular. Jack nodded. Ted sat.
No one talked for a while.
Finally, Jeff Kingston broke the ice: a strategically timed throat-clearing. "Now that everyone's here..."
Jack snapped into focus mode. "Yes. Now that everyone's here -" brief dirty look at Ted" - let's get started." Jeff flipped open a folder he'd brought from the ops department. Pete pulled out a little notepad. Ted sat up a little straighter in his chair.
"Well, no sense beating about the bush," Roger intoned. "We all know what the problem is."
Ted snorted. Roger looked at him the way a sixth grade teacher looks at a noisy student, and just like that, he'd been guilted into speech.
"I'm sorry," he said. "It's just... it's such a ridiculous problem to have, is all. I mean, sure, Nick Franklin probably can't play shortstop. The ops guys don't think so, I don't think so, you don't think so. But shortstop or no, he's a damn fine young player, and yet - come on. We're sitting on the most obvious piece of trade bait since Giancarlo Stanton."
"So why can't we find anyone to take him?"
Fictional Ted Simmons is right. This is getting absurd. Nick Franklin may not have a spot on the Mariners' roster, but all of the projection systems agree that he's an averageish hitter at an up-the-middle position with six years of team control left. He's Kelly Johnson, if Kelly Johnson were young and dirt cheap forever. Teams should be lining up to pay through the nose for Nick Franklin. If I were a fan of any other franchise, I would want my GM to trade for Nick Franklin, and then when he did it I'd write 1000 words about being worried he'd given up too much.
Anyways, yesterday word came out that the Mariners have had scouts watching David Phelps. Before Scott mentioned that Yankee fans were drooling over the prospect of swapping Phelps for Franklin, I'd never considered the possibility of sending him to the Bombers - for me, they'd always been overshadowed as theoretical trade partners by the Mets. And, as Scott's article mentioned, a straight Franklin-for-Phelps swap would be pretty terrible for the Mariners. But when you think about it... well, there aren't very many more natural trade fits for Franklin than the Evil Empire.
On the one hand, they desperately need infielders. Their ostensible starting second baseman has averaged less than 50 games per year since 2010. Their starting shortstop has already announced his intent to retire at the end of this season. Their starting third baseman is Kelly Johnson, which, hey, I remember typing that name three paragraphs ago. For a team that's trying to compete (and yes, if you sign Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka in the same offseason, you're trying to compete), that is a hilariously terrible infield.
On the other hand, they're actually pretty stacked in the Mariners' two weakest areas: outfield and starting pitcher. OK, so they're not going to send Brett Gardner to Seattle right after extending him, and by similar logic Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran can probably keep their bags unpacked, but their fourth outfielder is Alfonso Soriano. Their fifth outfielder is Ichiro Suzuki. Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Zoilo Almonte and Tyler Austin are four reasonably interesting mid-level prospects. In the rotation, they've got three spots locked up by big-name guys (C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Masahiro Tanaka) with a whole lot of serviceable depth behind them. Ivan Nova could probably be had. Phelps, of course, was being scouted, and has peripherals only slightly less sexy than Vidal Nuno's. Michael Pineda would be a hilarious return.
If I'm Jack Zduriencik, and I'm trading Nick Franklin, I want an immediate upgrade to either the outfield or the starting rotation, and I want some significant talent that'll stick with the organization for years to come. Keeping in mind that the Cubs are on the hook for Alfonso Soriano's 2014 salary, he could be a pretty interesting "impact" headliner provided the Mariners got a back-of-rotation starter like Phelps or Nuno into the bargain. Sure, the Yankees would then be short a DH, but they're the Yankees, and Kendrys Morales is still a free agent. On the other hand, if Brian Cashman were willing to send Ivan Nova to Seattle, a reasonable trade could be constructed that netted the Mariners Nova and one or two outfield prospects.
Look. It would be wonderful if the Mariners could turn Franklin and stuff into a great player instead of turning Franklin into a mediocre player and stuff, but if that deal existed, they probably would've made it already. Jeff Sullivan's insinuations that earlier this offseason they were prepared to send Franklin to the Rays for a back-of-rotation SP prospect leave me thinking that there just isn't much of a market for the Mariners' surplus 2B. Which is weird. 'Cause he's good.
But the news that the Mariners are scouting Yankees intrigues me. For all our talk about the Mets, and Rays, and Blue Jays, and Dodgers, none of them make quite as much sense for a Franklin trade as the Bombers. And hey, considering the Yankees just picked up a fun cop... perhaps it's not so far-fetched to imagine them wanting a deputy in the dugout.