The Phillies have optioned Maikel Franco to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in a surprising move, the club announced. Brad Miller has been activated from the 10-day injured list to take Franco’s place on the 25-man roster.
Perhaps Franco’s demotion shouldn’t be all that eyebrow-raising. After all, he hasn’t done much to warrant a roster spot. His .231/.296/.405 slash translates to a 70 wRC+, easily the worst offensive output by any of the league’s 24 qualified third basemen. On top of that, Franco doesn’t come with a strong defensive reputation at the hot corner, making his woeful offense all the more troubling. Tied for the National League’s final Wild Card spot, evidently the Phils decided they could no longer tolerate such a lack of production.
Nevertheless, the Phillies have run with Franco as their starting third baseman for more or less four years. He’s never been all that productive, but the club has never gone out and acquired a definitive upgrade, suggesting they still believed in him long-term, at least somewhat. Moreover, Franco’s putrid numbers at the plate seem a bit misleading. His walks and strikeouts are both at career-best levels (although the walks may be a result of his frequently hitting eighth in an NL lineup), and he’s no doubt unlucky to have a meager .228 BABIP.
Evidently, the organization felt whatever positive regression might be forthcoming for Franco at the plate wouldn’t be meaningful enough to wait for. Franco will arbitration-eligible for the third time this winter and is tracking as a probable non-tender candidate, although he’ll have two months to right the ship.
Interestingly, Philadelphia will move Scott Kingery to third base in Franco’s stead, tweets Matt Gelb of the Athletic. A former second base prospect, Kingery has MLB experience all around the diamond but has played mostly center field this season. Presumably, Roman Quinn will get a longer leash in center with Kingery back on the dirt.
Philadelphia will also welcome back the 29 year-old Miller, a longtime utilityman for the Mariners and Rays who had a fantastic showing with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate earlier in the season. He offers a left-handed bat with some power and more defensive versatility than Franco, but defensive metrics have never been fond with his glove at any position and he brings a significant amount of swing-and-miss.