The Orioles announced Friday that third baseman Maikel Franco has cleared release waivers and is now a free agent. He can sign with any club for the remainder of the season, and a new team would owe him only the prorated portion of the league minimum for any time spent on the MLB roster.
Franco, who turned 29 yesterday, was designated for assignment earlier in the week amid a series of Orioles roster moves. He’s been the primary third baseman in Baltimore this season but has managed only a .210/.253/.355 output. Franco has homered 11 times and added 22 doubles in 403 plate appearances, but his general lack of offense reached a tipping point and prompted the Orioles to look at younger options.
As ugly as this season has been, Franco posted a very solid .278/.321/.457 slash with the Royals last summer, appearing in all 60 games and connecting on 24 extra-base hits (eight homers, 16 doubles). The former Phillies top prospect has shown flashes of potential at the plate throughout his big league career but has yet to produce on a consistent basis. Overall, he’s a lifetime .246/.297/.423 with 121 home runs through 3185 plate appearances at the MLB level.
With Franco out of the picture, the Orioles’ infield mix is comprised of Trey Mancini at first base, Jahmai Jones at second base, Jorge Mateo at shortstop and Ramon Urias/Kelvin Gutierrez at third base — at least for the time being. Infield prospect Rylan Bannon looked to be having an absolutely lost year in Triple-A but has been doing everything in his power to salvage his season in recent weeks. Bannon clobbered 10 homers in a span of 10 games this month and is batting .356/.431/1.044 over his past 12 games. His overall season batting line is just .185/.281/.441 — thanks in part to a recent 0-for-35 stretch — but manager Brandon Hyde told MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko earlier this week that there’s “definitely a possibility” of Bannon being summoned to the big leagues in September.