The Braves signed third baseman Maikel Franco last week, according to Baseball America’s Chris Hilburn-Trenkle. The signing took place prior to September 1, as per The Athletic’s David O’Brien, so Franco would be eligible for inclusion on a postseason roster.
It can be assumed that Franco’s deal is a minor league pact, and if he does reach Atlanta’s active roster, the Braves will only owe him the prorated portion of a minimum salary. The Orioles are on the hook for the remainder of Franco’s salary (what is left on the infielder’s one-year, $1MM deal) after releasing Franco on August 27.
After a solid season with the Royals in 2020, Franco couldn’t keep the momentum going during his lone season in Baltimore, hitting only .210/.253/.355 with 11 home runs over 403 plate appearances in an O’s uniform. These struggles prevented Franco from being a trade chip for the rebuilding Orioles at the trade deadline, and so the team opted to cut him loose to open up more playing time for younger players.
Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has shown a propensity for adding veterans as roster depth, and Franco’s presence will provide some extra backing for Austin Riley at third base. Riley (enjoying a big breakout season) has seen almost all of the action at the hot corner this season, with utilityman Ehire Adrianza serving as the primary backup. Franco also has experience at first base, so he could theoretically also back up Freddie Freeman
Franco was a Riley-esque top prospect himself when coming up in the Phillies farm system, though now in his eighth MLB season, Franco hasn’t been able to consistently deliver on that potential. As per the wRC+ and OPS+ metrics, Franco has been an above-average hitter only three times (2015, 2018, 2020) in his career, and he has a .246/.297/.423 slash line over 3185 total PA in the big leagues. He does have 121 home runs, as Franco has topped the 20-homer threshold three times.