Phillies fans are ready to move on from Maikel Franco, but is there any realistic upgrade?
Since he first put on a Phillies uniform expectations have been high for Maikel Franco. Mike Schmidt called him a future MVP and fans thought the number one prospect was the answer to a hole that’d been left by Scott Rolen years ago.
Franco hasn’t turned into the MVP candidate who could slug 40 home runs a year like everyone hoped, and after five seasons the fan base, and potentially the front office, is ready to move on.
While that notion is absolutely fine, there aren’t many options for the Phillies to turn to at third base if they hope to make a competitive push next year.
Phillies third basemen had the second-worst WAR in baseball at -2.4, narrowly passing the Boston Red Sox. Having a negative WAR is never a good thing, but nearly half the league saw their third basemen have a negative WAR. In fact, 20 major league teams had a collection of third basemen with a WAR below 1.0 last year.
There are options in free agency like Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson, but both are coming off down years. Donaldson hasn’t stayed healthy for two years and Moustakas has only had two above-average seasons in his career.
The trade market isn’t littered with third basemen either. Across baseball, there is a shortage of elite third basemen on the trade market. The Cubs said they’re open to trading anyone, including Kris Bryant, but a team on pace to win multiple World Series with Bryant earning nickles compared to others won’t move him unless a historic collection of players comes in return.
Anyone the Phillies would replace Franco with likely won’t produce numbers better than the homegrown kid.
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In the three years during which Franco has been the starter he averages 24 home runs, 77 RBI, and a .250 batting average. How does he compare with some of the options in free agency and the trade market over the last three years?
Mike Moustakas: 24 HR, 64 RBI, .260 BA
Josh Donaldson: 26 HR, 67 RBI, .273 BA
Matt Duffy: 7 HR, 50 RBI, .286 BA
Jake Lamb: 22 HR, 76 RBI, .244 BA
Joey Gallo: 27 HR, 58 RBI, .203 BA
All five of those players have also had a history of injuries, while Franco has played at least 130 games over the last three years, and he could have played more if Gabe Kapler didn’t bench him.
Whoever plays third base is a stopgap in the eyes of the fans and organization until top hitting prospect Alec Bohm arrives, which might be a couple of years.
By no means am I a Franco apologist, but realistically, who can replace Franco and be an upgrade for the Phillies? Yes, he’s not the MVP candidate with 45 home runs in his bat, but there is no one who Matt Klentak can realistically add who can be an upgrade.