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Nick Franklin Rumors
Mariners second baseman Nick Franklin is “a top target” of the Athletics as they explore upgrades at the keystone, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Franklin’s name has been a fixture in trade rumors ever since the M’s signed Robinson Cano, with the Royals and Rays among the clubs most recently connected to the 23-year-old infielder.
As Slusser notes, there are some obstacles in the way of an Oakland/Seattle trade match on Franklin, mainly that the Mariners may not be interested in helping a division rival. The Mariners are also known to be asking for a high price for Franklin, and the A’s may not have enough young talent left in the system following their recent major trade with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Franklin played 104 games for Seattle in 2013 and was seemingly being groomed as the Mariners’ second baseman of the future before Cano signed. Franklin has appeared in only 17 games with the M’s this season and has spent most of the year dominating minor league pitching — he owns a .300/.394/.481 slash line in 283 PA at Triple-A Tacoma. With experience at both second and shortstop, Franklin could be a fit for the A’s at either position; Oakland’s long-term shortstop plans are somewhat in flux with Addison Russell traded and Jed Lowrie set for free agency this winter, though 2012 first-rounder Daniel Robertson is enjoying a big year at high-A ball.
Among more experienced second base targets, Ben Zobrist may not be a fit for the Athletics since the Rays want a big return for the utilityman, and he may not be available anyway since Tampa remains on the fringes of the AL East race. The Phillies had one of their top scouts at Sunday’s A’s/Orioles game, which could hint at a connection with Chase Utley, though Slusser notes that Baltimore could be looking for second base help as well.
FRIDAY: Taijuan Walker‘s name is once again at the center of trade talks surrounding Price, reports Heyman. He adds that Tampa has also expressed interest in the likes of corner infield prospect D.J. Peterson and James Paxton, neither of which is particularly surprising; Peterson and Paxton are two of the top young players in Seattle’s system.
The two sides are discussing various iterations of deals for Price, Zobrist or both. Heyman adds that Seattle might be willing to include Brad Miller in a deal as well, given the emergence of Triple-A shortstop Chris Taylor. The M’s, however, have said they won’t deal Mike Zunino.
THURSDAY, 9:51pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Mariners’ talks with the Rays have been more focused on Zobrist than Price, and the two sides have been discussing Zobrist “for weeks.” Nick Franklin‘s name has frequently come up in talks, he adds.
Heyman also reports that the Mariners have spoken to the Twins about Josh Willingham and the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo, and he notes that he, too, has heard Byrd’s name in learning of the Mariners’ trade talks. One big league source tells Heyman, however, that a deal for Byrd is now “less than likely” due to his no-trade clause.
He also adds that the Mariners’ ownership group is very big on bringing in players who want to be in Seattle. Offseason comments by Price’s agent about his client not wanting to sign a long-term deal in Seattle seem to indicate that Price doesn’t fit that description. However, the team’s status as a legitimate postseason contender may have changed Price’s thinking on that front.
2:10pm: Though no deal is imminent, the Mariners have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the Rays regarding lefty David Price and utilityman Ben Zobrist, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Meanwhile, talks have stalled with the Phillies regarding Marlon Byrd.
Needless to say, Price and Zobrist both represent potential impact to contenders. Either player could presumably add value to just about every roster in baseball. That holds particularly true for Seattle, which could not only pair Price with current ace Felix Hernandez but would be able to play Zobrist at shortstop, outfield, or even first base.
Of course, the return for either — and, especially, both — would figure to be substantial. (It is not clear from Morosi’s report whether the two would be joined in any potential deal, or indeed whether the sides have progressed that far.) Tampa is said to be interested in beating the return that the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija, if it deals Price at all. Certainly, a hypothetical pairing of Price and Zobrist (both under control for next season) would require a bigger return on paper than was commanded by Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Meanwhile, the news on Byrd makes sense in light of last night’s report from ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, which indicated that Byrd would ask the Mariners to guarantee his $8MM option for 2016 in order to waive his no-trade clause. Seattle is one of just four teams on Byrd’s no-trade list.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
It almost doesn’t seem fathomable, but the Rangers received even more bad news on the injury front today, as MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes that Alexi Ogando will be shut down for three weeks and could miss up to two months with inflammation and some minor ligament damage in his right elbow. An MRI showed “wear and tear” on the ligament, but not enough to require surgery, he adds. Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest tweets that the Rangers are officially terming the injury “acute inflammation.”
Here’s more from the American League West…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports takes an excellent in-depth look at Athletics slugger Brandon Moss, who admits that he almost quit the game on multiple occasions before latching on with the A’s. Moss tells Rosenthal that he initially chose to sign with Oakland because he knew he’d be hitting in the Pacific Coast League at Triple-A after his minor league deal, and he thought that league’s notoriously hitter-friendly environments would boost his power numbers and draw some interest from Japanese teams. Moss adds that he was preparing to become a firefighter in his native Georgia, should his last attempt with the A’s not pan out.
- The Mariners could be a potential landing spot for Billy Butler if the Royals end up moving him, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. The team has long coveted Butler but would need to be convinced that his season-long slump is just that — a slump — rather than the beginning of a decline. Some scouts have told Dutton they don’t see diminished bat speed for Butler, which is a good sign. He adds that Kansas City has shown interest in Nick Franklin, though clearly a Butler-for-Franklin 1-for-1 swap isn’t realistic.
- Dutton adds that Mariners officials dismissed previous reports that have connected the team to Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell. It’s been reported previously that Seattle is one of two finalists for Carbonell’s services. Dutton does note that the Seattle front office’s denial could merely be gamesmanship.
Though they were never that interested in Stephen Drew, finding a solution at shortstop remains a priority for the Mets, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. While the upcoming free agent class features prominent names such as Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie, Martino hears that the team isn’t looking at that market yet. Rather, the Mets are focused on adding a young, controllable shortstop on the trade market this summer.
Martino lists Brad Miller and Nick Franklin of the Mariners as possibilities, though one source tells him that the two sides haven’t been in contact recently. Arizona’s Didi Gregorius is hitting very well at Triple-A Reno, and Martino says the Mets are continually monitoring him, but the front office shakeup in Arizona makes trading with them a bit confusing at this time, he adds. Martino writes that other teams, at this point, aren’t even sure whether to contact GM Kevin Towers or new Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa regarding trades, though Mets GM Sandy Alderson has a good relationship with both.
He continues by stating that the Mets were only interested in Drew on a one-year deal, as they didn’t want to be responsible for 2015 and beyond if he struggled this season. The team currently wants to see if Wilmer Flores can handle the position, but his defensive question marks have been well-documented.
From this point on, I’m purely speculating, but I wonder if a name like Hak-Ju Lee could be available on the trade market now that the Rays have extended Yunel Escobar‘s contract through at least 2016. Lee is struggling thus far in his return from multiple ligament tears in his knee last season, but he’s a former Top 100 prospect that could be blocked on the big league roster.
The Rangers also have some middle infield depth with Luis Sardinas likely blocked from a starting role due to the presence of Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar. The pitching-hungry Twins also have a solid shortstop prospect in Danny Santana, though their own lack of a quality long-term option at short might make them hesitant to deal the 23-year-old.
The Mets possess enviable pitching depth with Matt Harvey on the mend from Tommy John surgery and a group of young starters including Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and top prospect Noah Syndergaard. With such a wide range of arms under team control, the Mets could conceivably use that depth to entice a rival club to part with a controllable shortstop.
The Astros have made the promotion of George Springer and DFA of Lucas Harrell official by announcing each move via press release. As Houston fans (and fantasy baseball players) eagerly await Springer's big league debut, here's a look around the rest of the division…
- Springer won't be the only highly touted prospect to arrive in the Majors today; the Mariners will recall Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma, reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who expects Logan Morrison to hit the DL in order to clear a 25-man roster spot. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter), Franklin could see some time in the outfield. Franklin, 23, got off to a blistering .395/.469/.744 start in 11 Triple-A games after an offseason loaded with trade speculation.
- Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker was scratched from last night's rehab start after complaining of stiffness in his arm, reports Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune. GM Jack Zduriencik said that Walker — who is a consensus Top 10 prospect — will be re-evaluated today. Seattle's rotation has been solid so far, but they've experienced a good deal of poor luck with injuries to Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.
- Jerry Brewer of Athletics Nation looks at Josh Reddick's struggles this season and tracks the history of pitches he's seen in two-strike counts dating back to 2012. Brewer notes that Reddick has long struggled against good fastballs and curveballs, while feasting on sliders and changeups. Pitchers are hammering Reddick with fastballs and curves thus far, and the result has been a 33 percent strikeout rate to go along with his .098/.196/.098 batting line. The A's are in a clear jam as they decide what to do with Reddick, Brewer writes. Reddick has a minor league option remaining, but he could see as much or even more velocity in Triple-A, which will contain no shortage of up-and-coming power arms.
Longtime Athletics starter Rich Harden is still pursuing his throwing program and is planning to hold a mid-season showcase, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Over 624 1/3 innings in seven seasons with the A's, the 32-year-old threw to a 3.65 ERA. Here are a few quick notes out of the AL West:
- Angels outfielder Brennan Boesch has a March 30 "soft out" in his deal, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. In essence, the clause requires the club to add him to its 25-man roster or allow him to go to any other team that is willing to do so. The 28-year-old has enjoyed a strong spring, putting up a .278/.350/.472 line in 40 plate appearances.
- Mariners infielder Nick Franklin has been spending some time working in the outfield, and says that he is simply "trying to be versatile," reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. The 23-year-old has been a hot subject of trade speculation, as he lacks a regular spot in the Seattle infield and could appeal to a variety of clubs. But his focus is on getting to the bigs with his current organization. "Some way, somehow I want to get on the field, whatever it takes," said Franklin. "What am I going to do, wait around for someone to get hurt?"
- Athletics outfielder Michael Taylor has learned that he will not make the Opening Day roster, reports Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. As the 28-year-old is out of options, he figures to be dealt or plucked off of the waiver wire, though a move has yet to be made. Once a top prospect, Taylor has certainly put his best foot forward this spring with a .274/.348/.532 line and three long balls in 69 plate appearances, though he has struck out 17 times while drawing six walks. Last year, in 481 trips to the plate at Triple-A, Taylor had a .281/.360/.474 triple-slash with 18 home runs.
- The division has two new additions from this morning, as the Mariners added starter Chris Young and the Astros claimed outfielder Alex Presley.
It's already been a busy day for shortstop news as we've heard that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade Didi Gregorius for pitching, the Cardinals are shopping Pete Kozma, and the Tigers have been asking teams about available shortstops, even scouting such options as Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. Here are some more shortstop-related rumors…
- The Tigers aren't likely "to make a serious push" for Kozma, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports opines (Twitter link), because they have a similar player in Danny Worth.
- There haven't been any reports linking the Tigers to the Mariners' Nick Franklin, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Franklin is perhaps better suited as a second baseman and may not have the glove to handle short, Heyman suggests.
- One scout suggested that Adeiny Hechavarria might be the sort of defensive specialist that Detroit would want at short. A Marlins source, however, tells Heyman that the Fish have yet to be contacted about Hechavarria.
- Several executives around baseball believe that signing Drew would be the best solution to the Mets' shortstop problem, Heyman reports. A multiyear deal for Drew would give the Mets an answer at short for 2015, when the team could look to contend once Matt Harvey is healthy.
- The Mets would be interested in Drew on a one-year, $9MM contract or possibly a two-year, $20MM deal, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. There haven't been any signs that Scott Boras, Drew's agent, would settle for either price.
- Also from Martino, the view on current Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada from opposing scouts is that he's "a solid player, who appears spooked by the pressures of playing in the New York market, and hearing criticism from his own front office." One scout believes that Tejada “could be OK, but he needs to get out of New York. [He's] a classic change-of-scenery guy.”
- A source not connected to either the Mets or Diamondbacks tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link) that the rumor of Gregorius going to New York "has legs" and is a situation to watch.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was in attendance for North Carolina State pitcher Carlos Rodon's start Friday, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. The left-hander is widely considered the top talent in this summer's draft. In his outing, Rodon allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, walking four but striking out 12. While Luhnow wouldn't discuss Rodon specifically, he commented that the trip "made me miss my scouting days." Here are two more AL West notes:
- A source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that the Mariners feel "no urgency" to trade infielder Nick Franklin, who appears to be without a position following the Robinson Cano signing. There's healthy interest in Franklin after the 23-year-old flashed promise in his 2013 Major League debut, but a trade "doesn't seem like a given at this point," Cotillo writes.
- Joe Blanton could change minds in the Angels organization with another strong start, Bill Shaikin writes for the Los Angeles Times. The team previously "did not even pretend" that Blanton was in competition for a rotation job, and he struggled in his early spring outings. The Angels' limited pitching depth will likely be a factor in their ultimate decision on Blanton.
- Alternately, If the right-hander continues to show improvement and the Angels begin receiving calls on him, they would probably eat most of his salary in a trade, Shaikin says.
Scott Boras says he has "had dialogue" with the Mets regarding Stephen Drew, Newsday's Anthony Rieber reports. Boras also seemed to criticize the Mets, however, for their lack of interest in signing Drew. "The bigger issue is the credibility of the teams that are deficient," said Boras. "They have known weaknesses. … When these players are available and clubs that have weaknesses are not pursuing them, a question of the integrity of what the goals of the organization are come to mind." The Mets still plan to go into the 2014 season with Ruben Tejada as their starting shortstop. Here are more notes from New York.
- One source close to Drew indicates he is unlikely to sign with the Mets, Dan Martin of the New York Post writes. Drew still wants a multiyear deal, and the Mets reportedly don't want to give him one.
- The Mets also haven't had significant talks with the Mariners about middle infielder Nick Franklin, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. The Mets had previously been connected to Franklin, who became expendable when the Mariners acquired Robinson Cano.
- The last day to release a player with a non-guaranteed Major League contract and pay just one-sixth of his salary was Wednesday, ESPN New York's Adam Rubin notes (on Twitter). In that context, it may be at least somewhat notable that Ike Davis is still with the Mets. Davis suffered through a disappointing season in 2013 and now has a calf injury. Davis has frequently been connected to other teams in trade rumors and is set to make just $3.5MM in 2014, however, so it seems unlikely the Mets would release him. They could, however, still do so and only pay one-fourth of his salary if they make the decision by March 26.
The Orioles have joined the Rays and Mets as teams discussing a deal with the Mariners for middle infielder Nick Franklin, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Baltimore would be interested in using Franklin at second base, where the team remains somewhat unsettled entering the season.
Franklin is competing (nominally, at least) with Brad Miller at short for Seattle after being displaced at second by Robinson Cano. The 23-year-old had a solid debut last year, posting a .225/.303/.389 line in 412 plate appearances after taking over at the keystone for Dustin Ackley. Franklin is considered a more marginal defender at shortstop than Miller, and has no apparent alternative spot in the Seattle infield, opening the possibility for a deal.