.234/.297/.409, 428 PA, 17 HR, 56 RBI, 8.4 BB%, 14.3 K%, -0.5 fWAR
Where do we even begin?
Was there anything good about the year? To be quite honest, I can’t think of one defining moment of Franco’s from this season. Let’s look through his game log for 2019. I see a 2.070 OPS after four games. That’s good! I see a 1.014 OPS after sixteen games, very good indeed. Now that I think back, I remember a lot of “best #8 hitter in baseball tweets” from those days. Let’s fire up the ole’ Twitter engine.
On Opening Day, JT Realmuto said Maikel Franco was the best eight-hole hitter in baseball.— Kristen Rodgers (@KristenERodgers) April 16, 2019
He's not wrong. pic.twitter.com/qetbXN4yiv
I can't believe how filthy this Phils lineup is going to be. Maikel Franco is our EIGHT hole hitter. That's insane.— Matt Michaels (@MattyMike0718) March 28, 2019
Maikel Franco might hit 30 HRs as an eight hitter.— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) March 30, 2019
Yup, there were a few. Let’s keep looking at that game log.
Well, that looks to be about it! He had a really good start to the season and looked like he had finally found his place in the lineup now that major league quality hitters had taken the 1-6 spots ahead of him.
Unfortunately, the same thing that kept happening to Maikel in years past happened to him again this year.
New swing mechanics!
A corner thusly turned!
Then we get into the same routine again and again. Bad mechanical habits combined with an allergy to drawing walks leads to a swoon in counting numbers.
What the shame of it all is that the ability was there and was so exciting when Franco was moving through the minors. Year in and year out, we always though this was the year of the Great Franco Breakout. Fans were hoping against hope that Franco would finally become that top hitter we had envisioned not too long ago. Then, when we look back on the season he had just completed, it was more sighing and shaking of heads. He just keeps doing the same frustrating thing of flailing at pitches on the outer half, hitting balls harmlessly into shifts, and genuinely looking like a AAAA player when all is said and done. Where in the previous seasons, no one better was really available to supplant him, this year, enough was enough and Franco was finally taken out of the lineup, losing his regular spot in favor of platoons and matchups.
It’s not like it wasn’t justified either. From April 17th (the last date his OPS was over 1.000) to the end of the season, his overall slash line looks even worse (.230/.281/.373). That’s a .654 OPS, completely unacceptable. He just wasn’t that good anymore and was yanked from the lineup. In the end, it didn’t make a difference in whether or not the team made the playoffs, but it had to be done.
Every year, the same question lingers over Franco’s future: to tender or not to tender? It seems like the team is always deciding whether or not they should proceed with Franco as a member of the Phillies or whether they should finally turn the page on his career. Judging by how he was used later in the season, it seems as though the die has been cast already and he would be moving on. With the new change in managers, perhaps that isn’t so cut and dry as we originally thought.
Tendering a contract to Franco means the team, according to projections, will be paying him ~$7 million for next year. That isn’t exactly a lot of money, but it’s also not peanuts. Spending that much money for meager production doesn’t seem like the wisest allocation of the team’s resources. But an interesting question arises: should the Phillies keep him around as a warm body in the “better the devil you know....” sense and wait for the arrival Alec Bohm, sign someone else to one year deal to keep Bohm’s seat warm, or invest in someone longer term and use Bohm as a trade chip? That’s an entirely different ball of wax, so let’s focus on Franco.
If the team does decide to keep him, they know what they’re getting: power with no idea how to actually hit or take a walk, an average-ish glove and powerful right arm in the field. The room to improve does exist, but by this point, we’re talking about the chances being slim, in the 5-10% chance range. Again, though, he really only needs to hold down the fort until Bohm is ready. Factoring in the expected service time shenanigans that will undoubtedly happen, you’d have to believe that will happen around the end of May. Can Franco give you a good enough bat until then? Perhaps. It just seems like a waste though.
We’ve sung this song before. Should the team cut bait or keep hoping that someone will squeeze those extra drops of production out of Maikel? To me, it just seems like using $7 million on Franco could be better spent somewhere else. Bringing up Bohm to start the season and using that money on a reliever or starter would make more sense. So, the bet here is that Franco’s tenure with the Phillies is over. He’ll probably hang around a few more years, serving as a decent filler for a rebuilding team that needs someone to play third while a better option comes along. Somewhere like Detroit or Miami would make sense for Maikel right now. He’s been a trooper through this whole process, but the time to cut bait has come. Happy trails, Compa F.