In recent days, reports have surfaced that the New York Mets have interest in Seattle Mariners infielders Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. Presumably the one that does not win the starting job at shortstop this spring is available to some level. Neither has the option of second base as consolation with the presence of $240 million man Robinson Cano. Neither is going to be asked to take up the outfield, either on a permanent basis or to allow for them to fit into a utility role in 2014. It’s win the job or be optioned to Triple-A Tacoma — or be traded.
Miller is going to win the starting gig at shortstop, which means the Mets, and the Tampa Bay Rays, whose interest has recently been reiterated, will have a shot to make a deal for Franklin. The names being suggested — and note that it’s pure speculation at this point which players may or may not be offered by the Mets or Rays — vary some, but let’s assess each name thrown out there.
Juan Lagares, OF — New York Mets
Lagares, 25 in March, has gained a reputation as a plus outfielder thanks to the metrics based on his 2013 outing. How reliable that is remains to be seen as these kinds of metrics are merely useful in 3-year samples and completely useless in part of one season. That doesn’t mean he’s not a good glove, but the scouting eye suggests he’s more of above average than historically sensational.
Lagares is a right-handed batter with very little offensive upside, if any. He’s strong, but is tied up by hard stuff in and his swing mechanics do not allow for many hits the other way. He doesn’t walk much, his strikeout rates, even in the minors, or that of a power hitter, and Lagares managed all of 30 home runs in parts of six season at the minor league level. At his age, he’s not really a prospect, despite his inexperience in the majors, so it’s difficult to believe there’s a lot left to come at the plate.
He’s also not the fastest of baserunners, so it’s all about his defense.
Long term, Lagares is a role player, a fourth outfielder at best, and perhaps a defensive platoon partner.
Rafael Montero, RHP — New York Mets
Montero is a legitimate prospect at 20 years of age and having reached Triple-A for 16 starts a year ago. The general consensus is that he profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter employing a 90-93 mph fastball with well above-average command to both sides of the plate, an average changeup and a slider that needs work.
For Mariners fans, this may remind them too much of Hector Noesi, but Monteros is better than Noesi ever has been, based on his control and command. Montero is just 6-feet even, so there’s no true projection left — meaning he is what he is in terms of velocity, most likely — but he may be ready for the majors early in 2014.
Wilmer Flores, 3B/1B — New York Mets
Flores began his pro career as a shortstop but quickly outgrew the position and has now done the same with second base. He’s slow-footed but his arm strength fits the hot corner. The questions surrounding his bat and how it profiles in a corner are real, however.
Flores, 23, isn’t particularly patient but has above-average power and I’ve seen him square up a half-dozen fastballs in a 4-game series, but for me it’s a reach that he ever hits for enough home run power to play first base, which puts a lot of pressure on his glove at third, which some scouts believe has stagnated.
Flores is a B-level prospect, but not one that likely helps Seattle anytime soon.
There’s very little chance — really zero — that catcher Travis d’Arnaud or right-handers Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler will be moved in any such trade.
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP — Tampa Bay Rays
Hellickson may or may not have been the actual subject of a trade between the Rays and Mariners, but his injury “scuttled” the deal, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
A healthy Hellickson fits as a club-controlled starting pitcher with mid-rotation upside. He will miss up to two months, however, and is basically out of the question for the time being, and so are each and every one of the Rays’ other starting pitchers with big-league capabilities in 2014, including David Price barring a premium package that includes a lot more than just Franklin.
Right-hander Chris Archer has also been mentioned, but he’s another arm the Rays are relying on this coming season. Any mention of Matt Moore is preposterous, unless the return from Seattle reached elite status. Moore still carries that kind of upside.
Alex Colome, RHP — Tampa Bay Rays
Because top pitching prospects Taylor Guerrieri and Enny Romero are most likely off limits for a player that may not be able to stick long-term at shortstop — and with the Rays having a surefire shortstop on the way in Hak-Ju Lee — Colome may be the top young arm the M’s could expect in such a trade.
Colome is 25 and just made his big-league debut in 2013, but scouts have seen a lot of progress from him since the tail-end of his 2011 campaign. He’s had some injury concerns — including the elbow strain that ended last season — that hurt his trade value some, but he’s up to 98 mph with the fastball and uses two breaking balls to get swings and misses — the slider is considered a plus pitch. He’s likely a future late-inning reliever, suggesting he could be part of a trade with Seattle, but not the headliner in a deal.
Desmond Jennings, CF — Tampa Bay Rays
Jennings has yet to live up to his prospect status suggested three years ago but he’s still just 27 and is coming off two relatively healthy seasons. He can play center, though he hasn’t been stellar there in the majors, but the promise at the plate remains after a .252/.334/.414 2013 season, his best yet.
There’s a little more raw power in Jennings’ swing than he’s produced, but he’s had issues hitting for average and getting on base and isn’t likely to max out in the extra-base hit department as he works on consistency with making contact.
The Rays do have options in center field in Brandon Guyer and David DeJesus, as well as Wil Myers, who played the position a few times a year ago, his rookie season. Jennings is their best option, however, and it’s unclear what they do with Franklin considering Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar are slated to start the season up the middle.
It’s worth noting that Jennings will be arbitration eligible after this coming season, while Franklin has five-plus years of club control remaining and two before arbitration rings the bell.
It’s difficult to make trades in Major League Baseball and having a player that’s big-league ready that does not have an obvious place to play doesn’t make a deal easier to make. It may even make it more difficult since clubs are going to try and fleece the other for the “unnecessary” player.
The Mariners can get value for Franklin but it may not occur anytime soon. Names like Flores and Lagares do absolutely nothing for me. Franklin is better than both, even if he’s a second baseman rather than a shortstop. General manager Jack Zduriencik is in a position of power; he has a player he doesn’t absolutely have to keep, and it’s one that other clubs covet. But he also doesn’t have to trade him, and shouldn’t unless the deal makes the 2014 Seattle Mariners better immediately.
– Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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