The Giants are reportedly interested in Maikel Franco. This is silly. This is smart. This is expected, and this is completely off brand. I hate this idea and love it. The offseason is rotting my brain. All of the above is true; all of the above is a lie.
Let’s take a closer look at Franco.
Franco is a 25-year-old third baseman who has hit more than 20 home runs for the Phillies in each of the last two seasons. His game is best described as “Pedro Feliz, without the glove,” though. He had a sub-.300 OBP and a below-replacement WAR total last year. Young and powerful doesn’t necessarily mean young and good.
Franco would be controlled through 2021. While that doesn’t mean a whole lot if he’s not good — the Giants could have me under team control through 2024 if they sign me for the league minimum right now! — there are reasons to think he’s better than his last two years. The first is that he was actually solid in 2016, hitting .255/.306/.427 with 25 homers, which isn’t that bad. The second is that he actually doesn’t strike out a whole bunch, which gives him a super strange offensive profile. He’s not taking a lot of walks, but he’s also capable of making contact, while still being able to punish mistake pitches. What does that all mean? Dunno, but considering he’s just 25, I’m curious.
Remember the Domingo Santana Theorem.
What the Giants need to do, then, isn’t trade for Domingo Santana. It’s to find and secure the next Domingo Santana. They can’t pay market price for a young, cheap, and established hitter. They need to pay at a discount for a young, cheap, and unproven hitter. They need to trust their own ability to evaluate a player from another organization and plug him in, despite the uncertainty.
Franco would apply. He also might not be good! This would be a question for the philosophers. And, uh, the Giants’ front office would need to answer that same question. No pressure.
Still, there’s a chance that Franco might be something more than a sub-.300 OBP wrapped in a shell of clompy third-base defense. And considering that he isn’t eligible for arbitration until next year, he most definitely fits into the Giants’ plans for getting under the luxury tax.
Which all demands an answer for this question: Why would the Phillies sell low on Franco right now?
I don’t know! Wouldn’t think they would. This isn’t the most intuitive rumor. But the Phillies have ambitions to contend next year, which they announced loudly with the Carlos Santana signing. They might think that waiting around another year for Franco doesn’t fit in with that. I can respect that aggressiveness.
Except, what would they want with the Giants in that scenario? Not Joe Panik. Not prospects, unless they’re part of a three-way trade. Maybe Jeff Samardzija, but, wait, what in the heck fan fiction is this?
I’m skeptical that there’s anything the Giants have that the Phillies would want for their pre-arbitration third baseman who’s coming off a career-worst season, in other words. I can come up with a lot of reasons why the Giants would want to acquire him. I’m coming up with fewer reasons for why the Phillies would want to trade him.
This is before we remember the part where he might not be any good.
In theory, I would be very much into the idea of the Giants taking a chance on a young, low-OBP slugger in the off chance that his high-contact rate portends something better. In practice, this would cost a lot of prospects, and I can’t get behind that. There’s no reason for the Phillies to sell low, which means they’ll have to get a sell-high price on a player who was pretty bad last year. I’m not interested in that.
[reads Evan Longoria rumor again]
I don’t know. Maybe I’m interested in that.
There’s a possibility that Christian Arroyo is better than Franco next year, full stop, based on defense alone. There’s even a way to argue that Pablo Sandoval is better than Franco, based on established peaks. I’m wary of the Giants looking at the grass on the other side of the fence and declaring it to be greener at the cost of several prospects.
Still, this is the kind of risk I would rather have instead of Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria. As long as the Giants’ scouts and smart people are on board, figuring that Franco has an upside that was obscured last year, I can get behind it.
It would take a lot of trust. I’m not sure if they’ve earned it, and I would still reserve the right to make fun of the Giants if they fail with this specific transaction.
It makes a little sense, though! The Phillies would just need to play along and give Franco to the Giants for almost nothing. Which they wouldn’t do.
Back to the drawing board, then. Here’s a rumor that won’t happen, but I’m writing about it because it beats writing about absolutely nothing.