Philadelphia Phillies send OF Simon Muzziotti and 3B Maikel Franco to Seattle Mariners
Case for Philly
The Phillies have given Maikel Franco a real good shot. 2300+ plate appearances and a few full seasons without competition and he’s struggled to make it work. Despite his precocious performance in the minors and occasional bursts in the bigs, Franco doesn’t fit on a contending team. While he is three months shy of his 27th birthday, the Phillies are 3.0 GB of the NL East lead and in the thick of a heated Wild Card race that could swing on the smallest of upgrades. Yesterday, pushed to desperation, they started recently claimed Brad Miller at 3B. Whatever you think of Kyle Seager, he is an improvement on the Phils’ predicament.
What we think of Seager doesn’t matter, of course. It’s what the Phillies think. Slimmed-down Seager has hit only marginally better than the 2018 version since returning from his hand injury, but his peripherals are encouraging - particularly the double-digit walk rate - as is his still-sterling defense. If Seager is merely a league-average 3B as he has been the past couple seasons, it’s a solid deal for Philly, who gets competent production and improved defense that allows Scott Kingery to remain in CF and fill the Odubel Herrera+Andrew McCutchen hole. If Seager is resurgent, all the better, but so long as the glove plays (and the Mariners eat at least half of the remaining money as proposed), Seager should fit in well, particularly in an NL East division dominated by RHPs. Even after his poison-pill option, Philadelphia would have to pay Kyle just 8.5mm per year with the amount of money we propose Seattle to send over.
The return is one Philly should be comfortable parting with. Franco may yet reach his talent, but the Phillies have tried a dozen times over and their patience is understandably at an end. Losing a decent prospect stings any team, but Muzziotti is a ways off. Moreover, Philly has a few prospects in Adam Haseley and Mickey Moniak at similar or higher levels that could combat Muzziotti for a big-league spot, not to mention only two spots will be available in their outfield for the next decade. Seager improves the Phillies now, next year, and likely the year after, and by the time Alec Bohm potentially is ready, his contract will be complete, and the Phillies hope to be amid a couple playoff runs. That starts by improving now.
Case for Seattle
Kyle Seager is probably second only to Felix in terms of “Mariners whose love and work was unrequited.” Though Kyle played on some pretty good teams, and was a key piece of those teams, the obvious fact remains that he will not, in all likelihood, ever be a key piece of a winning Mariners team. He could have a role to play, it might even be a decent one, but his days of elite contributions will be short, if they exist at all. Given the dollars remaining on his contract, plus that poison pill, the Mariners would have to kick in hefty cash--about half the dollars remaining, after the pill--but by doing so, they can send Kyle back to the East Coast near his home to play on a contender, and also recouping a couple of at least interesting guys. All that, and they’d still save about 15 million dollars compared to what they’d otherwise owe him through 2021.
OF Simon Muzziotti is Philadelphia’s 8th-best prospect. A 2015 International signing for the Red Sox out of Venezuela, he was one of the players in their scandal who had his contract voided, and he then signed with the Phillies in 2016. He plays primarily in center field and should easily stick there. A plus runner and defender, the main questions swirl around his bat: a 112 wRC+ so far this year in high-A Clearwater is nice, and he hits line drives with aplomb, but there may well not be enough power here to be more than a fourth OF. Obviously, the Mariners have a prospect of their own in center field at high-A, but this is not a level at which they should be worrying about having “too many” of any type of prospect. Such things will sort themselves out, and it’s entirely possible Muzziotti could thrive in a corner if the power grows.
Maikel Franco is a known commodity in the sense that he’s been in the majors for years and it’s easy to see him play any given day. Franco is still not even 27 and fits firmly in the “serviceable” definition. That, though, has been a disappointment to a Phillies team that has given him regular playing time all the way back to 2015, and his role with the club is limited and/or endangered. There’s enough interesting tools remaining--low K%, a good ISO--to make him look somewhat interesting as a reclamation, but this would be more interesting if he had a good glove to carry him through his frequent slumps. The Mariners could try to get him to elevate his launch angles and hit the ball on the ground less frequently, or they could just take him to balance the trade and make roster space for Philadelphia.
Does It Balance?
So how can each club justify this trade? To analyze this portion, we’ll use a new tool: the Baseball Trade Value simulator, a creation of Athletics Nation member invisibleinkwell. You can mess around with the simulator here. Inputting this trade, the values for each player are:
Seager Trade Values
|Simon Muzziotti||7.9||Kyle Seager||-20.9|
This deal hinges on a few things.
First - the Phillies must see Seager as a measurable upgrade. If Seager continues to be a mid-80s wRC+ like he was last year, that’s a tougher sell. Moreover, the Mariners must be willing to acquire 2.5 years of Franco and feel there is a player they can yet unlock. Strange as it might be to compile the full left side of the infield from the 2018 Phillies, Seattle has time to give youngsters play. The key is that no superior alternative is liable to appear on the market. There could be Anthony Rendon, who will be difficult to afford, saying nothing of whether the Nationals would put another of their stars in Philly. A similar option to Seager would be the Giants’ Evan Longoria, but Longo is guaranteed more money thru 2022 and is two years older than Seager already. A cheaper, short-term solution could be Asdrubal Cabrera of the Rangers. Still, he too is 33, with weaker offensive production this season, and the Rangers are in a Wild Card spot as of this writing, making them an uncertain seller, especially if Philly wants to maximize the impact of their upgrade.
Second - Seattle must be willing to eat up money on this trade. Seager’s contract triggers to guarantee $15 million for the 2022 season when Kyle will be 34. That means Philly would receive 3.5 years of Seager for about $30 million, including the $30 million in cash Seattle would send along. That’s probably an appropriate deal for a player like Seager, but considering his slip in production it’s no sure thing. We’ve seen Seattle eat major money on a few deals - with Robinson Canó and Jay Bruce in particular - and go halfsies on another with Edwin Encarnación so it’s easy to envision them doing that or more once again for Seager.
Third - Philadelphia’s farm system is thin. They retain some top talent but their future is largely already on the big league roster or in the low-minors. Philly wants to be a long-term contender, but they’re fighting for their playoff lives right now. A team that has Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper under contract for the next three and 10 years respectively, along with Scott Kingery, is not one that is imminently in need of an outfielder in High-A like Muzziotti.
C Rafael Marchan - Marchan is a 40 FV catcher who is hitting well at 20 in A-ball, with good power and low strikeouts. He’s a decent all-around player whose main question is physically holding up to the grind of everyday catching—he’s just 5’9”.
RHP Francisco Morales - Entertainingly, every prospect we’ve discussed so far is a former Venezuelan international. Morales is from the same Philly international class as Muzziotti. He has a typical teenage pitcher profile: a live arm, snappy but inconsistent breaking stuff, and athleticism. Not yet 20 years old, and standing 6’4”, this is a player type you’ve seen a lot, and he carries a lot of both upside and risk.
OF Mickey Moniak - The most recognizable name on our list save Franco, Moniak is a former 1st overall draft pick, so there’s been a lot of upside here in the past. As is well known, now, Moniak has slowed down and hasn’t hit a ton so far in his pro career. He’s young for his level—a 21 year old at AA—and has actually hit pretty well there this year, but Reading is a hitter friendly park. A fresh start in Seattle could do him good.