With the way things are going this season, the path there should be clear as soon as next season if the stars align.
And what should the Mariners do between now and the time that Franklin is ready?
Right now, the M's certainly have options, but how many of them could work, and which one should they ultimately choose?
Let's take a comprehensive look at the situation and see if we can reach any serious conclusions.
It's hard to justify the status quo given Brendan Ryan's numbers this year.
In fairness, Ryan was never really expected to generate much offense. Yet hitting below the Mendoza Line and making a positive contribution to the offense perhaps once a week isn't what the Mariners need right now.
While it is doubtful the team will let him go anytime soon, one has to wonder what other options manager Eric Wedge might try.
It's hard not to root for a guy like Munenori Kawasaki.
He's got energy and a winsome way about him, but like Brendan Ryan, he's also 30...and hasn't done much when given the chance to play.
If Ryan bottoms out, Kawasaki could see some more playing time in a platoon role, but it would seem unlikely.
Expect him to stay in the utility role with the occasional spot start the rest of the way unless he manages to catch fire at some point.
In theory, this sounds like genius, but in practice, it's not so simple.
Sure, Kyle Seager plays third and is naturally a second baseman, so he should have the range and arm to split the difference.
Well, I remember being in New York in 2004 when the Mets figured they could take their young prospect shortstop and move him to second to make room for Kaz Matsui. At the time, Jose Reyes was simply glad to be playing and made the switch—but it didn't last.
Reyes ended up injured early on and put together a terrible season that saw him take a step back following a promising rookie campaign.
Am I predicting doom for Seager with a possible switch?
No, but moving Seager, who is arguably the team's offensive MVP thus far in 2012, could be a huge mistake on a team looking to find some stability in both the short and long term.
In the short term, Seager at short frees up space for Alex Liddi to play third base, but what if this move messes with Seager's hitting?
Meanwhile, let's say the move works in the long term. What happens to Seager when Nick Franklin is ready?
Do you then have to trade one of them? It's not the worst problem to have, but this season, Seager has earned the benefit of the doubt in my mind and should stay with the team and at third base.
Tempting, but difficult when Brandon League is your only bargaining chip.
Veterans such as Chone Figgins, Brendan Ryan and Franklin Gutierrez were all veterans the M's front office probably hoped to shop come the trade deadline, but either injury or poor performance have rendered all three worthless.
Only League, who is healthy, fairly productive and a closer, could provide some value.
It will be interesting to see what the M's could get in return for League, but I doubt anyone would offer up an everyday shortstop of any significant value that could play immediately.
My vote, hands down.
A few weeks ago, I advocated this move, because when else are the M's going to give the 22-year-old a chance?
While that still holds true, his numbers through 40-plus games look rather solid.
Promoting him is no guarantee of success, but could he possibly be any worse at the plate than Brendan Ryan? If the Mariners are looking to make strides this season, they need to take chances with the talent that they hope to work with, not this year, but for years to come.
Carlos Triunfel may no longer be the farm system's golden boy, but neither was another infield prospect the M's brought up last summer, who some wondered whether he would get a fair chance.
It turns out that an audition last year had a positive effect this year.
If not Triunfel, it would seem the Mariners are left with only one choice...
Haven't the Mariners done everything for Chone Figgins short of having someone hit and field for him?
Oh wait, they do...his name is Kyle Seager.
In all seriousness, you just know that when the end of the road comes for Figgins in Seattle, he will latch on to a contender and end up doing all of the things we hoped he would with the M's.
It would only figure.