Raising Questions

So what will happen with Maikel Franco?

Baseball works in mysterious ways sometimes and the Phillies may be seeing one of those weird ways right now. This weird, twisted tale has been working itself out now for about the last three years and it’s finally coming to a head. The main players involved are Freddy Galvis, JP Crawford and Maikel Franco.

We all know the story of these three. In 2015 Galvis was looking like Crawford’s placeholder and Franco was quickly becoming a star. Then in 2016 Galvis’ glove took root, Crawford’s play in general was stymied, and the question marks started to arise with Franco. 2017 started and Galvis continued to solidify his future while Crawford and Franco continued to struggle. For the last half of ’17, however, Crawford has really turned it on (REALLY turned it on) and has moved off shortstop to third where, at the big league level, Franco’s play has left the door open for opportunity.

Crawford will almost definitely be called up this month and that may leave Franco as the odd man out. What exactly is Franco’s future with the Phillies? Where does he fit in next season if no moves are made that affect his situation?

MOVED TO THE BENCH

Franco could serve the team as a bench option. This doesn’t seem a likely scenario because of his troubles offensively. He doesn’t add much in terms of versatility and if he can’t hit then what value is there in him being a pinch hitter? Besides, as a bat off the bench he likely won’t get many chances to hit and runs the risk of being even less effective than he currently is.

SENT TO THE MINORS

The Phillies could still send him down to see if he can regain some of what he had when he first came up (he has one option year remaining. There he’ll get the chance to play every day and perhaps this will put him back on track. The only drawback here is that he’d still be taking up a spot of the 40-man roster and those have been very valuable to the Phillies the last few years, having nearly lost Hoby Milner last offseason due to not having the room. Besides all of that it’s tough to come up with an example of this ever having benefited a player who has spent as much time in the majors as Franco has.

TRADED

It seems unlikely that the Phils could trade him. All of his value lies in unrealized potential to this point. Who wants a third basemen with the lowest WAR at the position? And that’s dating back to the start of the 2016 season, not just this year. They could try to trade him but the value just isn’t there. He’d also be competing against Todd Frazier, Mark Reynolds, Mike Moustakas and a whole host of free agent third basemen that teams could pick from. Impending free agent Jose Reyes, as bad as he’s been, has still put up more value than Franco.

RELEASED

It’s hard to believe that this is even a possibility that we could be seriously discussing, but it is. Having explored the other three options what else is there? And there’s some precedence for this – Dominic Brown still had two years of team control when the Phillies decided to move on from him. Brown was at one point the top-ranked prospect in the sport, an all-star and a player who had one of the best single months in baseball history; Franco doesn’t have any of that on his side. Again, the roster spot that he’s occupying is extremely valuable to the club.

Of course, Crawford could come up and prove to everyone that he’s entirely NOT ready too, and that he needs more time at triple-A. He could have a horrible month after being called up this season followed by a dismal spring training and that could completely change the Phils’ feelings about third base or the infield in general. But if he’s anything close to what he’s been a majority of his time in the minors – professional at-bats, stellar range in the field, etc. – it’s going to make it very hard for the Phillies to not play him regularly and that’s going to severely decrease their need for Franco.

Offensively Crawford isn’t exactly your prototypical third basemen either; it’s a position usually reserved for a lot of power. Defensively, a left side of the diamond featuring Galvis and Crawford is an incredibly tantalizing proposition. Theoretically it would make it extremely challenging to get a ground ball through that side.

You could probably take this same piece and apply it to Tommy Jospeh and Cameron Rupp, too. They are in about the exact same situation as Franco is here only they didn’t have the expectations that Franco had as a top prospect coming out of the minors. These are big decisions for the organization and the decision basically boils down to “give another shot” or “let’s just move toward the future.”

I personally would love to hear what you guys think. Where do you see Franco next year? Tweet me and let me know or leave a comment.

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