Just say no to Nick Franklin and Brad Miller

The Mets identified shortstop as a part of their wish list leading into the offseason. While there have been perceptible additions to the outfield and the pitching staff (Curtis Granderson, Chris Young, Bartolo Colon, John Lannan, Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde), shortstop has remained status quo. Part of that is due to the fact that the free agent market for shortstop’s dried up pretty quickly. Part is due to Scott Boras trying to parlay that dry market into a contract for Stephen Drew that no one, including the Mets, wants to give him. On top of that, Ruben Tejada went to fitness camp and got into shape. In addition Wilmer Flores, the former minor league shortstop determined by the organization to not have the range to play the position, also went to that fitness camp and impressed the team enough that he will get “a look” at shortstop during spring training.

So, between the dry market, the Drew drama and the offseason training regimen, the Mets appear to have taken a step back from fulfilling that particular wish. However, the significance of the trade market can’t be ignored as part of this equation. Where a multitude of shortstops (Yunel Escobar, Jed Lowrie, Jose Reyes, Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, etc.) appeared to be available, none have been traded and none appear to be on the way to being traded, at least not until the trade deadline. Basically, it appears that it will be Tejada versus Flores for the position this spring training.

Franklin MillerHowever, information came across the internet recently that could change that equation. The Mariners made the biggest splash of the offseason by signing Robinson Cano to a 10 year 240 million dollar contract. By making this signing, they also put themselves in a position to move one of their young middle infielders, Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin and Brad Miller. Up until recently, it appeared that the Mariners might just hold fast and figure out how to get these different players in the lineup. At this point in time, though, it appears that Miller and Franklin are squarely on the market. Miller played shortstop for the Mariners last year, after being called up from Triple-A. Franklin was originally a shortstop and was converted to second base in the minors, the position he primarily played after his own call up last year. Franklin has stated that his natural position is shortstop and he did play the position in a handful of games during his call up last year. So, this seems to answer a potential need. Two young, under control shorstops are available. On top of that, the Mariners are reportedly interested in a pitching prospect in return. This appears to be right up the Mets alley, but I’m not so sure.

Let’s look at the two players. Franklin is the higher end young player. Franklin has, on two different occasions, cracked Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list, ranking 53rd prior to 2011 and 79th prior to 2013. He’s a switch hitter with some punch in his bat, producing a 157 ISO and 33 extra base hits over 412 plate appearances after his call up in 2013. This power output wasn’t far off the mark from his minor league numbers, where he produced a career ISO of 172 and averaged 36 extra base hits per 412 plate appearances. On top of that, Franklin turns 23 in March.

The problems with Franklin lie in questionable defense. Last season, the average shortstop in the major leagues had a .974 fielding percentage and a 4.4 range. Throughout the 261 minor league games Franklin played at shortstop, he had a career fielding percentage of .943 and a range of 4.16, both below average at the position. In fact, over individual seasons at the position, he only once produced a range that would be considered above average (4.81 over 64 games in 2011) and has never produced a fielding percentage even remotely close to the major league average in 2013. One could argue that his offensive numbers would make up for this deficiency, but there are holes there as well. Franklin had a 27.5% strikeout rate in 2013 and, although he produced a solid walk rate of 10.2%, he doesn’t really fit the bill as a leadoff hitter, one of the Mets primary needs. Basically, Franklin profiles a lot like Flores does at the position; offense first, defense second. So the question that needs to be asked is, if the Mets already have a very similar player (minus some speed and the fact that Franklin’s a switch hitter) in Flores, then is it worthwhile trading a prospect to get another player of the same make and model?

Miller profiles slightly differently. Miller is nearly two years older than Franklin (turning 25 in October) and hits left handed. He also stuck at shortstop in the minors, playing 199 of his 215 minor league games at the position. Miller profiles well with the bat, producing a 182 ISO in the minor leagues, with a little more speed than Franklin. Miller’s major league debut last year was more successful overall as he hit 40 points higher than Franklin, struck out a 15.7% rate and notched six triples in 335 plate appearances, showing the speed. He also, in essence, matched Franklin’s ISO with a 153, although he appears to be a player that will hit for less home run power than Franklin. His walk rate was also just average at 7.2%, but he could slot better into a leadoff position than Franklin did.

Again though, defense is the issue. Miller is better defensively than Franklin, but he still posted below average numbers at the position throughout his minor league career (.940 fielding percentage, 4.24 range) and in the major leagues (.972 fielding percentage and 3.56 range). He doesn’t have the same offensive holes that Franklin does regarding strikeouts, but he also doesn’t have the same high range status that Franklin does (Miller was never considered a top 100 prospect in Baseball). It also seems that the Mariners would more likely move Franklin, since he’s the inferior defender and doesn’t really have a position on the team. The same question comes to mind for Miller as did Franklin.

So, how do we answer that question? The Mets need to just say no to Franklin and Miller. I’m all for trading to improve the team, but it’s hard for me to see the improvement here. Franklin and Miller, although slightly different players than Flores, both profile very similarly with Flores. There is a defensive question with all three players, while their bats are expected to help make up the difference. Franklin, just like Flores, was moved off of the shortstop due to the thought that he couldn’t handle the position in the major leagues. Miller saw time at second base last year, probably for similar reasons to Franklin. Yes, Miller and Franklin have proved more offensively in the major leagues than Flores, but it’s not like these guys have been playing for three or more years at that level. They combined have 747 plate appearances, which basically adds up to around 180 full games. That’s not enough to say that they are definitively better offensive players than Flores, just like Flores short stint in the majors last year isn’t enough to say he can’t make it in the major leagues.

Since neither player brings elite defensive skills or the ability to hit leadoff (Miller is a borderline candidate in that regard), then sending a pitching prospect to Seattle for either of these players, doesn’t really make sense. Tejada is a better defender than either player. Flores has just as much upside as a hitter. The Mets already need to make a choice between defense and offense, and this won’t clarify the situation at all. My belief is that, in regards to the shortstop situation, unless the acquisition made provides clarity, then there’s no point in acquiring a player that will just muddle matters all the more.

So, despite the news of Franklin or Miller being available, I say we stick to our guns. Basically, unless Drew falls in the Mets lap, I’m looking forward to the Flores and Tejada competition in spring training and am totally fine with letting the Mariners send either of their young infielders elsewhere.

17 comments for “Just say no to Nick Franklin and Brad Miller

  1. TexasGusCC
    February 22, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Scott, you have convinced me that Miller and Franklin may not be too much better than what we have. But I have a question: Why aren’t the Mets involved in the Cuban SS Diaz? I understand that they need a SS, he is available and will not cost talent, just money.

    They appear to feel confident that Drew will “fall into their lap”, and so they are waiting. Hard to understand this team. Did you guys notice that the Mets made the top ten moves of the offseason on Fangraphs with the Colon signing, and the bottom ten with the Granderson signing?

  2. Julian McCarthy
    February 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Earlier in the offseason, I would have been beyond thrilled with the acquisition of one of these two- I even made an article about it. At this point, with the recent reports of Flores actually having a shot at shortstop, it seems that there is no point in separating with some of the young pitching we have. One thing that I will say about the two is that both are proven defensively- especially Miller.

  3. February 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Maybe Wilmer Flores can play SS on a regular basis but I wouldn’t wager any money on it. But even if he could, his MLE’s from last year in LVG were not better than Miller’s actual OPS in SEA.

    To me, it comes down to two things: Is either player better than Tejada and what would you have to give up to get him?

    Here are their fWAR in 2013:
    Miller — 1.7
    Franklin – 0.4
    Tejada — (-0.3)

    Now, Tejada is better than last year but his best season in the majors he put up a 1.8 fWAR in 501 PA. Miller put up his mark last year in 335 PA in his first exposure to MLB pitching. Also, he didn’t require a 30.0 LD% to do it, like Tejada did.

    In a vacuum, I’d certainly prefer Miller.

    Now, I wouldn’t give up Montero to get him but if JDG got the job done — I’d pull the trigger on that deal.

  4. Spencer Manners
    February 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Franklin isn’t a major league shortstop. He lost his role with the Mariners when they signed Cano. The real question is Tejada or Miller? I’m in agreement with Brian on this one. If JDG is enough to get it done, then do it. However, I think once the Mariner realize that Franklin can’t play short, they probably won’t be looking to trade Miller.

  5. Scott Ferguson
    February 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    DeGrom for Miller I’d do, but no other arm as I’m still not convinced he’s that much better than what we have. No way am I trading for Franklin.

  6. Sean Flattery
    February 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Tejada will be the Opening Day shortstop.

  7. Name
    February 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Both Franklin and Miller’s and offensive stats look far superior to Flores even when i take into considering Flores’s age. I really wouldn’t even look at errors and fielding percentage to judge defense at all, especially minor league. Miller has a -0.5 UZR/150 at SS in a tiny tiny sample size. Franklin has only played 20 major league innings there. Nick Franklin had a 2.3 bWAR and 0.4 fWAR. Brad Miller has a 2.0 bWAR and 1.7 fWAR. Both have less than a full season at the majors and i think you’re discounting them too much.
    We already have enough arms while our next potential SS still hasn’t played full season pro ball yet. Personally, i’d give up Montero for either of them and I don’t think that would be enough to acquire either of them.

    On a side note, Cruz signed for 1/8. Makes me believe Drew can probably be had in the 8-10 range as well.

    • Jerry Grote
      February 22, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      On a side note, the signing of Chris Young just got dirt tossed all over it.

      Not so sure about the valuation people are placing on Nick Franklin. He isn’t a SS; he’s a 2B with some punch and there’s no WAY the Mets are moving a Montero for him. This isn’t Owings. The Mariners are over a barrel with NF.

      He is pretty much at his peak value. One year from now, I think Towers gets zilch for him so the pressure is on him to make the move. Now, if we’re talking about Miller … but we’re not. The Ms are keeping him.

      • Name
        February 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm

        I’ve never watched him play so i’m only going by what his minor league stats and what i read about him from various articles. He does seem to be a much better 2b than SS. Sandy loves his pitching so i know he won’t give up any of it, ever, but just going by his stats I would swap him for Montero and even stash him at AAA for this season if we don’t want to use him as a backup.

        • Metsense
          February 22, 2014 at 7:25 pm

          The Mets surplus is their pitching prospects and their organizational weakness is at shortstop. The most games Tejada has played in a season is 114. Who is his backup, Quintinilla ? Getting Franklin or Miller gets you another shortstop to compete with Tejada and makes the backup middle infielder a known commodity. I think that the two Seatle players are better then Tejada as Brian has already pointed out. I am sure they are better than Quintinilla. I am all for trading a pitching prospect for a shortstop as it will make the 2014 team better. It is also cheaper than signing Drew and they will have 4-5 years of team control with Miller/Franklin.

  8. Stephen Guilbert
    February 22, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Excellent excellent article. It’s not just the defense that worries me about Franklin but his contact issues. Watch some video on him. His swing is extreeeeemely long. Insanely long. From both sides. This is something I noticed about him when I saw him in the PCL. He’s a fine hitter and should be a nice combination of speed and power but for a guy who’s never going to hit more than 20 homers, 150 strikeouts is not going to cut it.

    Thanks for being a voice of reason in here. Conversations for either shortstop will start with Syndergaard and end with Montero. Forget the Black or deGrom rumors..those are BS. If you are Towers, you settle for no less than Gee or Montero. Do you really want that for a guy who is suited for second?

    Another thing to consider: The Mets have a lot of ground ball pitchers. You just can’t have two defensive liabilities up the middle with Murphy and Franklin. It’s suicide.

  9. February 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I think you’re not valuing minor league pitching the same way that MLB GM’s are.

    Dave Dombrokwski was raked over the coals for the return he got when he traded Doug Fister. Recently, he said that he had 15 young pitchers that he was targeting and 14 of them he was turned down on. The Nationals originally said no with Robbie Ray, too. Ray had a 3.72 ERA in half a season in the EL last year with a 1.328 WHIP. The previous year he had a 6.56 ERA and a 1.618 WHIP in Hi-A.

    The Mets were turned down when they offered a guy one year removed from a 32-HR season for a guy who is a #5 SP candidate.

    The value of young pitching is through the roof.

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      This is a good point, too. If the Mets are going to part with one of their elite starting pitching prospects, I vote they go all in and make a run at Profar, Boegarts, or Lindor. All three are excellent defenders with great bats. All three should be stars in the majors.

      If Jon Daniels came to you asking for Wheeler and Murphy for Profar, would you do it? Murphy plays second where he should be just fine in Arlington (think about the power increase he’d see there too), Texas needs young pitching, and they’re wasting Profar’s defensive prowess at short to get his bat in the lineup. This is a tough call but I’m curious if you would pull the trigger on this.

      • February 22, 2014 at 2:55 pm

        I don’t because at the end of the day, you’re still left with a middle infield hole and you’ve weakened your SP, too. I know a lot of people view Murphy and Flores as basically interchangeable but I’m not one of them.

        • Stephen Guilbert
          February 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm

          Right, fair enough. Tough to say Eric Young Jr. would be adequate at second either. Thing is, if you go that route:

          Young Jr.
          Chris Young

          Syndergaard (after a month of Dice-K)

          I honestly like that team better than what we have, but I understand your hesitations.

  10. Jerry Grote
    February 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I’m just going to bring this to the attention of Mets360 readers …

    Nick Franklin last year endured a pair of stretches in August last year where he got 1 hit in 52 at bats. I realize, 100%, that being selective is dangerous … but so is being blind.

    He’s 82 for 317, and I’ve got him at .258/.342/.444, 786 OPS with 12 dingers. There’s just no knowing if he can field the position, but if he can put up a 786 as a 22 year old rookie … I think you get him, and worry about it later.

    My mind is changed.

    • Stephen Guilbert
      February 24, 2014 at 9:08 pm

      You’re avoiding one problem though: The cost it would take to get him. How much would you give up?

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