The New York Mets’ search for an external solution at shortstop has been centered on free agent Stephen Drew. Now that the Seattle Mariners are dangling middle infielder Nick Franklin in the trade market, there is plenty of reason to shift their focus.
Seattle has two capable shortstops on its roster in Franklin and Brad Miller. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York speculated that Franklin is more likely to be dealt prior to Opening Day. One of their sources confirmed the team’s interest.
While playing out of position, Franklin put up a .225/.303/.382 line with 12 home runs, 20 doubles and 45 RBI in 102 games played last season. Those numbers trump New York’s 2013 shortstop production, led by Omar Quintanilla.
“Q” hit .222/.306/.283 with two home runs, nine doubles and 21 RBI in 95 games played last season—underwhelming, to say the least.
With the Drew negotiations seemingly going nowhere, the Mets are putting their faith behind Ruben Tejada getting his career back on track. In hopes to create some kind of depth at the position, prospect Wilmer Flores is getting reps there this spring.
Whether or not Tejada shows he can produce like he did in 2011 and 2012, there is still a lack of shortstop depth in the higher levels of the minor leagues. Signing Drew for one or two years at the price Sandy Alderson wants would improve the team, but it would only be a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
This season is supposed to be the beginning of consistently competitive Mets baseball, yet one of the most crucial positions on the field is still a huge question mark. Furthermore, New York’s two top shortstop prospects, Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario, probably won’t be ready for the big leagues for at least another three years.
Acquiring Franklin from the Mariners would fix the immediate issue, but also provide stability and upside into the future. If New York was truly confident in moving forward with Tejada or another internal candidate at shortstop, it wouldn’t be monitoring the trade and free-agent markets.
In 124 games played for the Boston Red Sox last season, Drew hit .253/.333/.443 with 13 home runs, 29 doubles and 67 RBI. When putting Franklin’s statistics next to Drew’s (.225/.303/.382, 12 home runs, 20 doubles and 45 RBI), their 2013 production isn’t drastically different.
He posted a similar walk rate (10.8 percent) and strikeout rate (24.8 percent) as Franklin (10.2 percent, 27.4 percent, respectively), as well. Drew’s .190 isolated power (ISO) is greater than Franklin’s .157, but it should be since he played half his games at Fenway Park instead of the spacious Safeco Field.
Considering he played out of position for all but 20 innings in 2013, Franklin’s rookie campaign was quite successful. Unfortunately for him, the emergence of Miller at shortstop and the signing of Robinson Cano leave him without a starting job in Seattle.
That could end up being a fortunate turn of events for the Mets, though.
Instead of tying up anywhere between $20 and $25 million over the next two seasons for Drew, the Mets could possibly get similar production from Franklin, at a fraction of the cost. Entering his age-23 season, there is potential for him to progress and actually outproduce Drew.
Franklin is not due to become arbitration-eligible until 2017, giving the Mets options and flexibility moving forward, which Matt Cerrone of MetsBlog cites as important to the front office. It allows New York to have what could be a productive shortstop under team control while Cecchini and Rosario move through the minor leagues.
The biggest obstacle would be offering a package attractive enough to persuade Seattle to send Franklin packing. MetsBlog speculates the price must be high since the team had nearly all winter to find a trade partner.
Cerrone reported that the Mariners are looking for a young pitcher under team control. Lucky for the Mets, that’s the kind of prospect they have plenty of.
Will DeBoer of Rising Apple would offer up pitchers such as Jacob deGrom, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia or Dillon Gee as trade bait.
Minor leaguers Jeff Walters, Darin Gorski, Logan Verrett and Erik Goeddel could also be brought into the conversation, depending on the kind of pitcher Seattle is searching for.
Signing Drew would still be a solid move for the Mets. However, it doesn’t seem like the two sides will be coming to an agreement. It’s been at least three months of negotiating, and the time to move on is now.
Acquiring Franklin could come at a different cost other than financial, especially if the Mariners are set on getting someone like Rafael Montero in return.
Technically, he’s unproven in the major leagues at shortstop, but Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings would come with their own set of questions due to small sample sizes in the big leagues. Making regular appearances in top-100 prospects lists, Franklin showed his promise with a .287/.360/.459 career minor league line in 394 games played.
Plus, it would be hard to be less productive compared to what Tejada did last season. His defense is a question mark, but if Ruben underwhelms this spring, it's a risk worth taking.
At this point, he wouldn’t cost New York Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard or Travis d’Arnaud. He’s under team control for six years, and there is upside in his offensive approach.
Franklin is the best and most realistic external solution available to bring stability to the shortstop position in Flushing.
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