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Phillies Rumors: Maikel Franco continues to draw trade interest

What will the Phillies do with Maikel Franco? (Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons)

Maikel Franco is hitting .400 in July. So it’s no surprise that the 25-year-old third baseman continues to draw trade interest.

According to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, multiple teams continue to show interest in Franco:

Meantime, teams are showing interest in third baseman Maikel Franco, who hasn’t reached his potential yet …

The most noteworthy part of this nugget from Heyman is the “s” after the word “team.” Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted last month that the San Diego Padres were interested in Franco. The Padres had a scout at the Phillies-Baltimore Orioles matchup on July 3, when Franco was in the starting lineup for the first time in three games. So it was known that the Padres had interest in Franco, but unclear if there were any other suitors; this report suggests that there are.

Exactly who those other suitors are is unclear. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported last December that the San Francisco Giants were ‘gathering intel’ on Franco at the Winter Meetings. However, the Giants presumably are no longer in the picture for Franco because just days after that report they acquired Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays. Brandon Belt, who narrowly missed the All-Star Game, is entrenched at first base.

In any event, the Phillies face an interesting dilemma with Franco. He hasn’t turned 26 yet, and after a disastrous 2017 season, Franco is slashing .274/.322/.464 with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs. He has a 0.3 offensive WAR, marking the first time that he’s had a positive offensive WAR since his impressive rookie season of 2015. His defensive metrics aren’t great, though he has a strong arm at third and the tendency to make Gold Glove caliber plays every once in a while.

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There have been times this year when Franco appeared to be the odd-man-out. But even when J.P. Crawford returns from the disabled list after the All-Star Break, it seems difficult to imagine putting Franco back on the bench when he’s hitting this well and neither Crawford or shortstop Scott Kingery have this season. At the same time, Franco – who can’t become a free-agent until after 2021 – may have elevated his trade value. With Kingery and Crawford likely to be in the picture in 2019 – and the looming possibility of signing Manny Machado this offseason – now may be the time to cash in on Franco.

The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark noted earlier this week that the Phillies wouldn’t be surprised if Franco eventually breaks out elsewhere. The comparison to Edwin Encarnacion – who flashed his upside at times while in Cincinnati but became one of the league’s premier power hitters in Toronto – has been made. There’s no guarantee Franco ever does break out, and waiting for him to become Encarnacion may be unfair, but it would be difficult to imagine trading a player with that type of upside before his 26th birthday.

This won’t be an easy decision for general manager Matt Klentak.

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