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Phillies Trade News: Could Maikel Franco be on the Block?

An anonymous source tells Nick Cafardo that Maikel Franco is very available, so it must be true.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
The face when a Boston reporter makes stuff up about you
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

AHAHAHAHAHAHA NO! Maikel Franco is not on the trading block.

Nevertheless, Nick Cafardo is baiting us with a rumor that doesn’t pass the smell test (scroll down to the second numbered list—#2). I’ll bite, even if just to dismiss it.

Generally, Cafardo isn’t all that judicious about the rumors he passes along. I have developed a habit of rolling my eyes at anything Cafardo reports during the hot stove season, unless it’s in the past tense.

Specifically, this rumor reads like bullshit. Here’s the report:

Once one of the Phillies’ untouchables, the 24-year-old third baseman is more than available, according to a major league source.

First, we have an anonymous source. It is almost certainly not a source inside the Phillies organization. If the Phillies wanted to advertise that Franco is available, they wouldn’t advertise in the Boston Globe. Boston might have a problem a thirdbase but Franco is not the answer for a team battling for a playoff spot in a tough division. He’s a long-term investment for a team without a winning imperative (e.g., the Phillies). Moreover, the Globe doesn’t have the same reach as, say, a national outlet or, say, calling up potential trade partners and kicking the tires. It is, I guess, possible that a Phillies front office person talked out of turn, but I find that highly unlikely. Anyone in-the-know on these matters would keep quiet.

So, the anonymous source is almost certainly outside the Phillies organization. Perhaps the source is from an org that has had talks with the Phillies about Franco. The question would then be whether those talks amounted to Franco being on the trading block or just preliminary discussions exploring possibilities with no strict objective on either side. Loosely speaking, every baseball player is available in the same sense that every homeowner’s house is available. At the right price, you’d gladly uproot yourself and suffer the hassle of moving. Similarly, the Phillies would be crazy not to listen for a steal. Strictly speaking, however, my house is not on the market, nor are some ballplayers. Franco is like my house.

Second, the language “more than available” is suggestive but not quoted. For all we know, that’s Cafardo’s gloss on something he was told that could be spun to mean the Phillies are listening to offers. If the Phillies are listening to offers, is Franco more than available? Is he even available in a practical sense (like, they’re trying to make a deal)? And what does “more than available” even mean? Literally, it’s nonsense. Figuratively, it suggests the Phillies are desperate to move him, and that’s just silly.

Why is it silly? To start, the Phillies don’t have a thirdbaseman behind Franco. There is no prospect pushing Franco out yet. Nor will there be soon. Anyone the Phillies placed at third for the remainder of the season—Blanco, Florimon, Kendrick—would be temporary and thwart the purpose of putrid seasons like this one: to develop members of the next competitor.

Of course, if the Phillies could land a prospect or two that would accelerate the rebuilding process it would absolutely be worth moving Franco and replace him with a fungible temp for now. But Franco won’t bring back that return right now. Moving him can only slow down the rebuilding process because in order to get high-enough ceiling prospects the Phillies would have to take prospects in the low As who have a higher rate of flaming out.

And here we have the most glaring reason that the Phillies aren’t shopping Franco. They would be selling low on a player over whom they have 4 more seasons of control after 2017 and who will start arbitration with bad numbers that will drive a low salary for a player who might still break out. (After all, Franco has an infuriating amount of talent that he can’t quite muster into a long-term MLB regular’s performance. But in light of the homers like he hit last night, it’s a wonder he doesn’t pepper the opposite field until the pitchers whine for a cessation of hostilities. I digress.) Even if the Phillies had a thirdbase prospect close to MLB (or plan to sign a replacement in the offseason), it would seem a bad time to move on from Franco. Why not wait until he looks like a better than replacement player? I trust the Phillies front office not to throw away an asset by selling low without any pressing reason.

Finally, this rumor might have been planted by Franco’s agent (h/t Ethan Witte). Perhaps, Franco, his agent, or both hope that a change of scenery will right Franco’s ship, as sometimes happens for young players. To be sure, this is a live possibility. But it strikes me as a bad idea for the agent. It can only annoy the front office and strain Franco’s relationship with the organization that will likely control his future for at least another season and a half.

In sum, we have little reason to believe Franco is on the trading block because he’s still a work in progress, under control for 4 seasons at a bargain salary, at a position where the Phillies have no depth. Trading Franco for anything but selling-your-dream-house price would be insane.