The Brewers have claimed infielder/outfielder Nick Franklin off waivers from the Rays, reports Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). The Rays had designated the 26-year-old Franklin for assignment over the winter. Milwaukee announced the move, somewhat surprisingly adding that righty Michael Blazek has been designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Franklin enjoyed a productive year for the Rays in a limited sample of 191 plate appearances last season, hitting .270/.328/.443 with six homers and six stolen bases. However, the former top prospect never settled into an everyday role with Tampa Bay or even a regular position. Last year, Franklin saw time at shortstop, second base, first base, right field and left field, though the majority of his work in the Majors has come at second base.
That defensive versatility figures to play well for the Brewers in the National League, as the switch-hitting Franklin will give manager Craig Counsell a jack-of-all-trades type to utilize in a variety of capacities. While there don’t appear to be everyday at-bats for Franklin anywhere in Milwaukee, he can join speedster Hernan Perez in bouncing all over the diamond and could, of course, take on a larger role in the event of an injury.
Blazek’s DFA is a bit of a surprise, if only because he’s just one year removed from a terrific season out of the Milwaukee ’pen. While the 28-year-old Blazek limped to a 5.66 ERA in 41 1/3 innings last year, he logged an outstanding 2.43 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 47.4 percent ground-ball rate across 55 2/3 innings in 2015. Blazek maintained his velocity in 2016 (average fastball of 93.0 mph), but he did see his walk, home-run and ground-ball rates all trend in the wrong direction. Blazek does have a minor league option remaining, so any club that either claims him on waivers or acquires him via trade would be able to send him to Triple-A without needing to pass him through waivers.
While Franklin didn’t pan out with the Rays and Drew Smyly has since been traded to the Mariners, there’s still plenty of talent left in the Rays organization as a result of the team’s trade of David Price to the Tigers. In addition to Franklin and Smyly, Tampa Bay landed infield prospect Willy Adames in that deal, and the 21-year-old Adames is widely considered to be one of the top 50 or so prospects in Major League Baseball. The Rays also have Mallex Smith and minor leaguers Ryan Yarbrough and Carlos Vargas to show for their trade of Smyly to Seattle, creating further residual value from that 2014 blockbuster.