So you may have heard that the Mariners just gave Robinson Cano eleventy billion dollars to camp out at Safeco's second base for the next three decades. Whatever you think of this development, it seems pretty clear that the Mariners are going to have to do something with Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin, who are right now now probably worriedly staring at their cellphones and thinking about all that paint they just bought for their new Queene Anne condos.
Twitter has shown great aplomb this morning, with pundits and fans pointing out that the Mariners still don't have a good outfield as if they didn't think about that before signing the top free agent infielder of the past few years. You fools forgot you ALREADY HAD TWO SECOND BASEMEN! This whole thing sounds like more of the usual Jack Z and Howard Lincoln tomfoolery! Except not this time. These are the kinds of trade chips every team wishes they had in trying to rebuild teams from the ground up, and the Mariners not only have two of them, but they don't have to rely on the risk of shipping a top prospect and gutting the farm in the process. Now granted, the offseason is far from over. And when that happens please don't copy and paste that last sentence I typed and spit it back in my face.
So put the Taijuan fears back in the bag for another time. Instead, let's look to something we do know: the Mariners have some pretty big decisions to make about Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin, and everyone knows it, so their hand is out. Because of this, something is probably going to happen sooner rather than later--at next week's meetings perhaps? What are the possibilities? Let's take a look.
1. The Mariners keep both, start Franklin in AAA, keep Ackley in OF
Yeah this isn't going to happen.
2. The Mariners trade Nick Franklin
I think this is the most likely outcome of this whole situation. Franklin's value is perceived to be quite a bit higher than Ackley at the moment, for better or worse, and despite a rough second half to his rookie season, he's still thought of around the league as a valuable asset. Plus he has a big helmet that will make bobblehead nights quite a bit more profitable, and fun!
It's not just front offices that are high on Franklin. As ESPN's Dan Szymborski pointed out on twitter this morning, ZiPS projects Franklin and Cano to have almost identical WAR over the next ten years:
Now, of course, who knows what's actually going to happen. But that's the beauty of it all, and that's exactly what makes Nick Franklin more attractive than Dustin Ackley. I can get lost in Captain Cardboard's eyes too, but I don't know if everyone shares that sentiment.
So where is Nick Franklin going to end up? I keep seeing his name attached to the Royals in pure speculation, but that seems a bit redundant after they picked up Emilio Bonifacio last August, who doubled his wRC+ after leaving Toronto. It's common knowledge that the Mariners covet Billy Butler, and while Franklin alone absolutely wouldn't be enough to get him, that puts the ball in KC's court. But I don't see them making that move. SB Nation's Bluebird Banter suggests the Blue Jays could have their eyes on Franklin, and there are, of course, the ever growing David-Price-for-Taijuan-Walker-and-Everyone-Else-They-Shouldn't-Package-Together rumors. It would be madness to add Franklin in with Walker in a deal to the Rays, but the thought of that front office valuing someone like Nick Franklin is about as surprising to me as all the coffee and rain tweets coming from New York writers this morning. So yes--Franklin is probably gone. Where? I don't know.
3. The Mariners trade Dustin Ackley
Ackley's move to the outfield was a perfect metaphor for last year's baseball season, but it's not last year anymore. Well actually, it is still 2013, but you know what I'm trying to do here. Now that the Mariners have Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, and Willie Bloomquist, there is no way Ackley sees that side of the infield on this team again. If he sticks, he's certainly going to be in the outfield, and if the rest of this offseason goes the way that Jack Z is implying it will...Ackley probably going to be the fourth guy out there.
It would be pretty wild for the Mariners to land Choo and Beltran, though stranger things have happened. Regardless, they are going to be out shopping in that trade market like it's Black Friday all winter long, and it's probably going to take a trade to get the outfield looking like they want it to, rather than lucking out on free agents alone.
The middle of the Mariners infield may be looking like a done thing, and Ackley may only have a future with this team as an outfielder. But that's just the Mariners: last year's little project was predicated on the state of the roster and the plans for the future of this ballclub, plans that look nothing like other teams' plans, on a ballclub that quite honestly doesn't--and didn't--look like any other. Ackley has managed to keep his production at juuuust enough of a level that he's probably still on someone's wish list. Second base. Outfield. Shortstop, which would be dumb but, you know.
The problem with Ackley, though, is that the whole outfield thing also sent a pretty clear message to the rest of the league that the Mariners were ready to move on to Nick Franklin in the infield, despite the defensive loss they knew they would be taking on. Ackley was good for a Def rating of 6.1 in 2011 and 5.7 in 2012, and he dropped to -3.7 in the outfield last year. Meanwhile, Nick Franklin put up a solid -4.7 in Ackley's old spot at second. And this is what the Mariners WANTED. It's not that Ackley isn't going to be traded because of this, it's that he isn't nearly as valuable as he used to be. He's probably going to have to be a part of a package to get anything sexy in return, and while the Mariners have made some silly decisions in recent years, I'm not sure they let Dustin Ackley go for a half eaten sandwich and cold cup of coffee either. Unless they get crazy good in the next couple of weeks, and in that case, LET ER RIP.
If I had to guess, I'd say the Mariners shop Ackley in deals for players like Matt Kemp and David Price, and if they don't get any bites, he starts the year on the bench in the outfield. They've invested a lot into Ackley, and those boxes of unclaimed bobbleheads aren't going to sell themselves.
4. The Mariners trade Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin
For this paragraph, just combine all the words from sections 2 and 3 and make one, big super paragraph that is just as crazy as today's hot stove madness.
5. The Mariners move Dustin Ackley to their analytics department, trade in blank stares and accidental walks for actual analysis
50/50 on this one.
6. The Mariners hire Nick Franklin to be the new dugout cop
Also got a good feeling about this
7. Something happens that we don't currently know, but it involves one or both of Ackley and Franklin leaving, relegating the following video highlights into the same deep drawer of obscurity that includes videos from Cliff Lee and Yuniesky Betancourt
Goodbye, sweet prince(s). It's been real. But Robinson Cano, so, well...
- Robinson Cano, Mariners agree on blockbuster deal of 10 years, $240 million
- Mariners rumors: Talks with Robinson Cano fall apart, did Jay-Z kill the deal?
- Mariners rumors: Robinson Cano afternoon update
- Mariners rumors: Mariners willing to offer Robinson Cano $230-240 million over 10 years
- Analysis: The impatient projection system