Should the Phillies trade high on Franco now?

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Cormican and Joecatz debate the case for trading the 20 year old Third Baseman.

Cormican

The Phillies are still competitive in the Wild Card race, they also have a few valuable trade chips. Cody Asche isn't a big enough prospect to get much back. Jesse Biddle is a top draft pick, close to the Majors and could have a rotation spot as soon as next Spring with Halladay leaving. That doesn't sound like a guy they're dying to trade. Trading guys at A-level is dangerous, as can be seen from the Pence trade. You find out what a player is all about when they make the jump to Double-A. Three prospects made the jump this year: the aforementioned Biddle, 2009 Second Round pick Kelly Dugan (certainly tradeable, could bring back something decent as part of a package) and Maikel Franco.

Franco's untouchable right? Well, he might be, but here's the thing: he's a level behind Asche who could probably be an improvement over Michael Young right now from day 1 and could probably hold the position for several seasons, and Franco's probably the guy in 2015, at best. I'd say he's tradeable and I'd also say that with his sudden rise he may be this year's Mike Olt, capable of getting someone to overpay.

Joecatz

Are you insane??

Cormican

Probably, but that's neither here nor there. Obviously anyone is tradeable for the right price and that price may be on the market this year, if one is to believe that the Rays may trade Price (admittedly an off-season move unless they collapse entirely the next 2 weeks) or maybe you could get an Eric Gordon or Jacoby Ellsbury or well anything better than Joba Chamberlain.

Joecatz:

Ok, so I'll indulge you here. My thing with Franco is that based on the value out there right now, doesn't it make more sense to hold on to him till the end of the season, and dangle him in the offseason for a true stud player? I mean, he's bound to make the top 50 lists that he hasn't made, and his stock will rise, no?

But even then, here's my biggest problem. His ceiling is so damn good, no? What kind of a guy would you have to get back to ensure you don't give away a future superstar?

Cormican

Yeah, they could wait until the offseason and there's certainly some logic there, and I'm certainly not advocating trading him for any old chump. Franco for Rios would not be a trade I'd be particularly happy with. The reason I'm saying this is that his value may never be higher than now.

Franco isn't a perfect prospect. He's lead footed, he has bad range defensively and at the plate he tends to chase out of the zone and well, let's talk about his swing. You may hear a lot of people talking about him having an arm bar. What that means is that as a player swings he brings his hands back so far early in the swing that his lead arm straightens and locks. This makes players susceptible to inside pitches and off speed pitches as it's harder to adjust your swing with the arm locked in. I don't think Franco quite has an arm bar, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still have a really long swing.

Part of the reason I argue his value may never be higher is that right now, Franco is feasting on a pretty solid diet of Fastballs. Double-A Pitchers will adjust and he may find that the better breaking balls of Double-A and higher pitchers aren't as easy to adjust on and his average will sink. Combine that with his tendency to chase out of the zone and he could be in for a precipitous drop in average and OBP. His swing is built for power, so that isn't going anywhere, but you could end up looking at Mark Reynolds in a few years with plenty of power, but a poor average and below average defense.

I'm not alone in this thinking. Jason Parks from Baseball Prospectus ranked Franco in his Top 50, but noted that he can't move him further up the rankings because of his Defensive limitation and the risk that his bat suffers when Pitchers adjust to him. Keith Law was even less optimistic and said he wouldn't even consider Franco for his Top 100 after seeing him in person. He noted that Franco's defense is inconsistent and his hands sometimes look soft and others he struggles handling the ball. His concerns about Franco's bat were even more dire than Parks'. Law called Franco's approach at the plate a "disaster" and he doesn't recognize off speed pitches or adjust his swing to pitch location well enough.

Joecatz:

Interesting. So basically what you are saying, is if Franco's value is at its high point right now (and I'll compare him to where, say, Mike Olt was last year) the reality becomes IF (and it's a big if...) you can get a player who arguably is as good if not better than Franco's ceiling, letting him go in a deal at the deadline isn't the worst thing in the world. Sell High.

I don't claim to be an expert on Franco, but most of what I've read on him is in tune with what you're saying, and if I'm looking for comps for his ceiling a guy like Aramis Ramirez comes to mind. That said, Ramirez went 300/350/536 at 23 with 34 home runs... then he spent a year and a half hitting 250/300/430 and had 30 home runs over that season and a half when Pittsburg traded him with Kenny Lofton to the Cubs for Matt Brubeck and Jose Hernandez....

I guess you can make the case here too, that Franco could eventually move to the other side of the field, Cody Asche seems to be coming along, you drafted well for left side infielders this year...

Huh....

Man that's a big leap of faith though. So hypothetically, who do you move him for? what kind of player or who?

Cormican

Well, that's really the tough part. Price is unlikely to move because the Rays are still in it. Perhaps the Royals would be willing to move Shields. Shields is a 2.5-4 WAR pitcher, which is good value and probably at or above Franco's future value, but he's also about to turn 32, which makes him less than ideal.That said, Shields has a pretty team friendly deal at $12mm for 2014. Beyond that Pitcher choices are pretty slim, with names like Phil Hughes, Matt Garza, perhaps Tim Lincecum, Bud Norris and other somewhat more middle of the road back of the rotation pieces.

For position players a lot of talk floats around Alex Rios, especially since Revere went down. Rios is actually also around a 3-4 WAR player. He could cover Center Field, but like Shields he's 32. He's a low OBP player, with middling power, decent, but not great baserunning and really no single skills that stand out. It would fill a short term hole and once Revere is healthy, he can move back to Right or Rios can slide over.

Beyond that the pickings are beyond slim with perhaps the list headlined by Jusion Morneau or Corey Hart. However, both are only theoretically available as they near Free Agency. Both are terrible fielders at this point, neither's a good baserunner and both would be subpar offensively at First (all making them perfect replacements for Howard :rimshot:).

Perhaps, Shields, Hughes or Rios don't excite you. That's understandable, but the value is likely to match Franco's short term and any move to First would negate a large amount of Franco's future value as he'd be at league average for Third with his bat, but he'd be below average at First.

JOECATZ:

And that's where you lost me Dan. And you had me SO REELED IN!!! The biggest problem to me, isn't wrapping my head around moving Franco, its moving him NOW for any of the players that will likely be available at the deadline.

For me, to sell short on him for two (maybe three) years of an inconsistent Alex Rios, or a rental of Phil Hughes, or even James Shields just doesn't sit with me. And I keep coming back to the offseason. When guys like Price and Stanton MAY be available, and think back to this offseason, when the Diamondbacks made Justin Upton available, and in our minds Jonathan Singleton might have had us in the conversation.

In the end, I'm not opposed to selling Maikel Franco. But to sell him now, probably comes back to haunt this team, not based on what he does on the field in the future, but based on what he could net you later.

Now a deal that I'd do in a heartbeat for Franco? If the White Sox want to dangle Chris Sale (under control through 2017 with two friendly team options in 18 and 19) along with Rios? That's the kind of deal that you send a guy like Franco (and maybe even Biddle and more) for without hesitating.

But thats the kind of deal it would take. And the reality is that if that were to happen, the bidding war it would create might still prove to be too much.

So for me, you've convinced me that Franco is a moveable piece, maybe the best moveable piece in the organization. But unless Giancarlo Stanton, or David Price suddenly becomes available, unless he nets you a Chase Headley from the Padres, and you can extend him before the deal is signed you hold Franco.

Not because he isn't moveable. But because he's still worth more to the Phillies down the line. Because if you move him now for JUST Alex Rios, and next deadline, or this offseason, a guy like Sale is available, or a team like the Rockies suddenly decide they can't afford to keep Tulo and Cargo? If you don't have Maikel Franco to dangle? Alex Rios haunts your dreams. And so does Michael Franco.

Cormican

Alex Rios would certainly be disappointing, especially given your other scenarios. Here's the thing though, if Franco can't adjust and struggles through August, where's his value? It certainly won't tank, but it may not get you in November what it gets you in July. It could end up the case that come November it's more valuable to keep Franco and hope he can adjust.

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