Fire Dayton Moore

Fire Dayton Moore
It's time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Why Royals fans might cheer Robinson Cano the next time he visits Kauffman

Nearly 24 hours later, Magic Johnson is still the only source to come out and actually confirm Robinson Cano's 10-year, $24 million contract with the Mariners.

However, for all intents and purposes, I think it's safe to say Cano will be in a Mariners uniform on Opening Day 2014. However, this move could have a ripple effect from the Pacific Northwest all the way to Kansas City, if not further.

With the addition of Cano, Nick Franklin now finds himself without a job. Well, without a starting job in the Major Leagues anyway.

For those of you unfamiliar with Franklin, he's a 22-year-old, switch-hitting second baseman who made his Major League debut last season with the Mariners. He was drafted in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft out of high school. By 2011, Baseball America had rated him the No. 53 prospect in baseball. The next year ranked him the No. 54 prospect in baseball while Baseball America left him off their list. But last year he was ranked by both publications, No. 47 by and No. 79 by Baseball America. So pedigree is on his side.

In five minor league seasons he combined to slash .287/.360/459 with 46 homers, 80 doubles, 24 triples, 63 steals while being caught stealing 18 times, and he struck out 338 times while drawing 168 walks. Percentage-wise, he struck out 22 percent of the time while walking 11 percent of the time. However, last year in Triple-A he struck out 20 times while walking 30 times, so he's come a long way since his first full season of pro ball in 2010 when he struck out 124 times and walked 51 times.

In 102 games last year with the Mariners, he slashed .225/.303/.382 with 12 homers, 20 doubles, a triple, six steals, just one caught stealing, and 113 strikeouts (31 percent) to 42 walks (11 percent) in 369 at bats. In the second half of 2013, all of his percentage stats dropped off while his strikeouts more than doubled even though his at bats increased only by 70 percent.

There's a lot to like with Franklin and there are some disturbing numbers as well. So it goes with young talents that are a few tiers below the can't miss prospects.

However, one thing to remember with second baseman is a below average one won't kill you but an above average one can give a significant edge to a team hoping to contend. That's my opinion anyway.* Look at the Royals. They won 86 games last year despite playing Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella at second base for over half the season. And regardless of your feelings on Giavotella, rest assured he's every bit as bad as Getz and, together, they were arguably the worst starting second basemen in the American League last year, if not all of baseball.

*If you don't buy into my theory, consider the fact Cano just received $240 million for his hitting prowess as a second baseman and the fact the Tigers last month traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler, who I might not even rate a Top 5 second baseman, but has proven to be one of the better hitting second basemen in the game.

Even in a little under two-thirds of a season last year, as a rookie, Franklin hit 12 home runs, 20 doubles and stole six bags. In 250 combined at bats (about half a season), Getz and Giavotella produced just one homer, nine doubles, one triple and 16 steals (Giavotella actually only accounted for three doubles and nothing else in those categories). Franklin's 42 walks nearly doubled Getz and Giavotella's combined total of 24. Getz struck out significantly less than Franklin, but he's also seven years older.

Franklin will, or should, develop more patience and a better command of the strike zone with experience. And he should also only add more power to what were solid power numbers as a rookie. As I mentioned, Franklin is a switch-hitter and his numbers were better hitting as a left-hander against right-handed pitchers, which is positive since he'll see righties a majority of the time. But I would expect his numbers as a right-handed hitter against lefties to improve as well with more experience.

If everything breaks right, I could see him developing into something between Brandon Phillips and Martin Prado. But even if everything doesn't, I see him becoming a player of substance. He's not Getz or Giavotella material.

Of course, I'm not the only one who likes Franklin's chances of being a solid Major League contributor and, if I'm right, I'm definitely not the only one thinking about what it might cost to lure him away from the Mariners.

First and foremost, the Yankees could use a second baseman to replace Cano. They don't have the deepest farm system in baseball, but they certainly have enough to afford Franklin and the Mariners and Yankees do have a bit of history trading with one another. The Rays are also rumored to be interested in Franklin as a piece for a trade that could send David Price to the Mariners. If there is any truth to those rumors and I were the Mariners, I would probably explore every possible avenue that could net me Price.

That being said, the Royals might be able to offer a little something of value to the Mariners, as well.

The way the Mariners lineup stacks up right now, it is predominantly left-handed. Cano, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley are all left-handed. Justin Smoke and Abraham Almonte are both switch-hitters. That leaves Mike Zunino and, if they dare play him, Jesus Montero as their only right-handed bats. That's as of now. Now with Cano in the mix, it's a guarantee the Mariners aren't done shopping.

Scanning over that list, though, the most glaring hole is designated hitter. A hole that could easily be filled by the rotund Billy Butler, who just so happens to be a right-handed bat. Sadly with the season Butler is coming off of, that might be his most attractive attribute to Seattle and he's certainly not in the same class as a David Price. But the pieces fit and maybe the Royals could coax a pitching prospect away from the Mariners, as well, given Butler's history of hitting better than he did in 2013. In this scenario, I imagine talks with Carlos Beltran might heat back up for the Royals.

With the addition of Norichika Aoki on Thursday, that could also free up Lorenzo Cain to be dealt if the front office has lost some love for him with his latest injury woes. And if you look at Seattle's outfield of Saunders, Ackley, Almonte, it's not as if his services couldn't be of use. A Cain for Franklin deal straight up would be agreeable for both teams, I would think.

Other than that, I would be willing to send a Danny Duffy to the Mariners for Franklin, but I'm not sure Dayton Moore would. Actually, I have no idea what Moore values when it comes to pitching, which brings me to my rant for today.

Did Moore not learn his lesson last year with Scott Feldman?

I wanted Moore to sign Feldman last offseason, but instead the Cubs got him on a one-year, $6 million deal and eventually traded him to Baltimore for two decent long-term pieces. Well, Feldman was snatched up today by the Astros on a three-year, $30 million deal.

Feldman is actually five days younger than Jason Vargas, and last year owned a lower ERA (3.86 vs. 4.02), WHIP (1.18 vs. 1.39), an identical K/9 rate (6.5), in more innings (181.2 vs. 150). On a blind resume alone, it's a no-brainer as to which is the better pitcher. It's equally as obvious that at just $2 million more per year, Feldman is the better value and comes with less risk since the deal is a year shorter. A shorter, yet still reasonably priced contract, also makes Feldman more valuable as a trade asset for when the Royals inevitably return to rebuilding mode. At no point in Vargas' tenure with the Royals will he hold any trade value whatsoever.

There is nothing Moore is going to do with those extra $2 million to make it worth signing Vargas instead of Feldman. I wish I had a nickel for every time I said this, but Dayton Moore blew it again.

So far this offseason the Astros have acquired Dexter Fowler and Feldman while Moore has managed Aoki and Vargas. Just another example of why the Astros won't be a laughing stock for long and the Royals will be again before Moore's contract is up.

Moore has a chance to redeem himself by acquiring Franklin, but it goes without saying I'm not holding my breath.

Fire Dayton Moore

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