Sep 6, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Nick Franklin (20) beats the throw to Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar (11) to steal 2nd base during the 3rd inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

What Was the Near-Trade That Almost Landed Nick Franklin With Rays?


Right now, we are hearing that the Tampa Bay Rays are in trade discussions with the Seattle Mariners about middle infielder Nick Franklin. But if not for an unexpected twist, the deal would already be done. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported that the Rays were about to complete a deal for Franklin last month when Jeremy Hellickson‘s elbow injury and subsequent surgery caused them to back out. Since Hellickson’s surgery on January 30th, the Rays have made two key starting pitcher moves, trading for Nate Karns and signing Erik Bedard, and now they are ready to reenter discussions. But as we wonder what the Rays will offer the Mariners now, there is another question that has to be asked: who would have been part of that earlier trade?

At one point, it seemed like Nick Franklin would be one of the centerpieces for a potential David Price trade. That never came together, and we have no reason to think it was almost executed in late-January. We heard nothing about Alex Cobb or Matt Moore being dealt, and it is unlikely that the Rays would be trying to trade Hellickson with his value at its nadir. Chris Archer is slightly more plausible, but his rookie year was much better Franklin’s and the Rays clearly think highly of him as well. The Mariners would have needed to give up Franklin and other prospects to net Archer, essentially putting him in the same category as Cobb and Moore. That leaves the Rays’ other starting pitchers, and let’s look at the case for each one being the primary piece the Mariners would receive in exchange for Franklin.

Jake Odorizzi: If the trade was going to be Jake Odorizzi for Nick Franklin, it makes perfect sense that the trade was halted because of Hellickson’s injury–Odorizzi was going to take over his rotation spot. It could have taken another lower-level prospect or two to complete the deal, say Drew Vettleson or Felipe Rivero (both of whom were included in the Karns trade), but the Rays could have seen no point of keeping a big league-ready pitcher like Odorizzi at Triple-A and tried to turn him into a valuable big league piece for now. Here is the issue: the Mariners did not really have a need for Odorizzi at the time. All five of the Mariners’ rotation spots looked to be filled with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma pairing to be one of the best one-two punches in the major leagues and three of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, and Brandon Maurer filling out the rest of the rotation. Odorizzi certainly could have competed for a spot immediately, but he is not the pitcher the Mariners are looking for. The Mariners are looking to compete in the AL West this season, so that will likely make them more aggressive in terms of starting their top prospects, like Walker and Paxton, in the major leagues. Odorizzi would have taken some of the pressure off of them, but he lacks their potential and does not even have the pure stuff of Ramirez or Maurer. That does not rule out him being part of the deal, but it seems less likely.

Alex Colome: Colome does possess electric stuff, but would the Mariners be satisfied with a pitcher who may end up in the bullpen? Colome tantalizes evaluators with a mid-90′s fastball, two secondary pitches with excellent potential in his changeup and slider, and also a decent curveball. However, he has been held under 95 innings the last two years from arm injuries (though no surgeries) and also has issues with his command. Colome is not nearly the prospect he used to be. On the other hand, it is not crazy to think that the Mariners would trade Franklin for a pitcher who may not start the season in the major leagues. Colome could have provided depth behind their top six starters before coming to the big leagues in June or July either as a starting candidate or a power arm for the bullpen. Colome’s value is even lower than Odorizzi, so the package would have needed to include Colome, Vettleson, and Rivero, but that trade could make sense.

Enny Romero: Romero is in the same boat as Colome, but his command is a bigger issue than his health and he will need to spend most of 2014 at Triple-A. Romero, though, does have an arm to dream on. His fastball, slider, and changeup can all befuddle hitters, and we have heard for a long time that his command would come when he finally added strength (Romero is 6’3″, 165). If the Mariners saw a pitcher about to break out, they would consider trading for him along with other prospects. The other side of the coin, though, is that the Rays have no reason to trade Romero because they are a year away from deciding whether he is worth a spot in their rotation and we know they value their prospects highly. Romero is less of a “surplus starter” as Colome is.

The Field: Mike Montgomery could have been interesting, but it is hard to picture him as the headliner in a deal anymore. Merrill Kelly is another name, but once again, not as the centerpiece. In all probability, the pitcher the Rays were going to deal was either Odorizzi, Colome, or Romero.

The pitcher who the Tampa Bay Rays were most likely to trade for Nick Franklin was Alex Colome, and he is still the favorite to be part of a deal now. Despite his potential, he is somewhat of an “odd man out” in the organization at this point–especially with Karns and Bedard in the mix–and he is the type of pitching prospect the Rays would be willing to trade for the right price. With their number two starter, Hisashi Iwakuma, now facing a strained tendon on his middle finger, a pitcher like Colome could be even more attractive to the Mariners. Expect the Rays’ best offer to be Colome and an A-ball prospect or two in exchange for Franklin, and we will have to see whether that will be enough to make a trade finally happen.

Tags: Alex Colome Nick Franklin Tampa Bay Rays

  • redsoxu571

    This is a very nice overview of how a Franklin deal might have been shaping up, but I think you’re living up to your name a little too much when it comes to the Archer evaluation. Franklin is a former 1st round pick who progressed through the minors exactly as would have been hoped. He then put up an impressive partial AAA season last year before then posting a terrific first 50 MLB games and then a terrible, awful following 50 games.

    So basically you’re saying that Franklin’s last 50 games erases everything that came before that, including the draft pedigree, minor league track record, and .800+ MLB OPS in his first 50 games? That’s a tad bit shallow, wouldn’t you say?

    Archer is a fine-looking pitcher with one year of MLB service time who rose to roughly match Franklin’s prospect level. Franklin is a legit-fielding SS with an on-base/power package that isn’t easy to find. It seems likely that his garbage recent 50 game stretch was just a bad mental period, and shouldn’t impact Franklin’s value. Both Franklin and Archer are young, similar in service time, were similarly regarded prospects, and even look to be similarly strong and valuable major leaguers. Really, roughly swapping the two makes perfect sense.

    I also don’t see how you view a package built around Colome to even be worth considering for the Mariners. Colome is two years older and doesn’t even have an impressive track record…hard throwing RHPers with command issues and some injuries on their track record are a dime a dozen, and they don’t bring you a high-floor young multifaceted SS in a deal.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but Archer’s value surpasses Franklin by a decent amount. It is not simply about the rookie years. Archer is a high-upside MLB starting pitcher while Franklin has talent, but his ability to play shortstop defensively is questionable as is his ability to make contact at the major league level. Archer is far from perfect–he needs to keep working on his changeup–but his floor is much higher than Franklin at this point and there is every reason to be excited about his future. A one-year sample size can be taken with a grain of salt, but Archer looked like everything the Rays bargained for while Franklin’s season exposed his flaws. Franklin could very well rebound, but anyone making the decision now would take Archer over Franklin for the next five years.

      Colome has less value than Franklin. That is pretty clear. The Rays will need to throw in a couple more prospects of value to facilitate a deal. But you’re overrating Franklin–he’s not a shortstop–and underestimating the floor of Colome as a late-inning reliever and upside of an impressive starting pitcher. Maybe a package around Colome is not enough, but it works in theory and the Mariners would at least consider it if the offer is made.

      • Robbie_Knopf

        Also, the Rays’ starting depth is not insane anymore. They can’t afford to trade Archer no matter what. Maybe the Mariners would ask for him, but there is little chance the Rays actually considered dealing him for a player in Franklin who doesn’t even have a clear spot on their team at this point.

        • raffish

          IMO you’re valuing your prospect more because he’s yours. The M’s aren’t in need of a cluster of prospects. They need MLB level players now. The only worthy guys are price, Cobb, moore and archer.

          • Robbie_Knopf

            That is a natural bias, but we are talking about a trade the Rays were actually willing to agree to. None of those four are players they would realistically trade unless there were more pieces involved than Franklin. (I would hope that we would have heard something if a Price trade between the Rays and M’s was coming together.) And by the way, the Rays are trying their best to win too, especially after deciding to keep Price. They would trade anything but a surplus arm, and none of those four fits that mold.

          • raffish

            If you trade archer you still have price/Cobb/Moore to lead the rotation; Odorizzi at the back, hellickson eventually, and competition for the number 5 slot for the time being.

            Why bother to package random pieces for an upcoming semi-star who Oliver projects to accumulate 17.5 WAR over the next 5 years, when the m’s don’t need minor leaguers? And it’s insulting to an m’s fan when you think you’d get a top MI option with lots of control for, essentially, and potentially , nothing.

          • Robbie_Knopf

            There are two questions we are dealing with here: 1) what the Rays and Mariners agreed to exchange in the deal that was nixed and 2) what fair trade value for Nick Franklin is.

            In regards to 1), my goal in the piece was to figure out what the Rays would give up for Nick Franklin. Clearly they like him, but Franklin would not have a role on their major league team right now. The Rays’ middle infield positions are full, so either he would compete for a backup role or head back to Triple-A. Would the Rays really give up a key major league piece for a player expected to fill that type of role in a year where they hope to make a World Series run? I said no. That would mean that the highest starting pitcher on the food chain that the Rays would give up for Franklin would be Jake Odorizzi.

            In terms of fair value for Franklin, the Rays would have to give it to the Mariners to make a deal come that close to happening. Even if Colome was the headline piece, the lower minors prospects would have to legitimate. We are not talking about players who were barely regarded but instead players like Tyler Goeddel, who has spent the last two years at Low-A but still has very good all-around upside as a third base prospect. The Mariners want fair value for Franklin, and they were not going to trade him unless they got it.

            And the Mariners do need minor leaguers, just like everyone else. Despite his talent, Franklin is an extra player at this point, and the Mariners had the rare chance to make their system stronger without losing much from their major league team. If the right offer came, they would take it. Maybe now the story has changed because of the injuries to Iwakuma and Walker, but at the time, taking prospects for Franklin could have worked.

          • raffish

            It’s probably safe to say that if odorizzi is the best player the rays were willing to part with, there would not have been a potential deal. You know this. But rather than considering the rays may part with more, you create an unrealistic and underwhelming prospect package. Do you really believe this is the deal that fell apart?

            It is my impression you are attempting to answer the riddle, but you lack respect for what Nick Franklin brings to the table. Rather than going the other direction and suggesting the Rays might actually be trading Something of equal value, something useful right now, you retreat into denial And surrender only what you wish they would surrender.

        • Taylor Hope

          The transition to the bigs is often much easier for pitchers than middle infielders. I think you’re massively devaluing everything Franklin accomplished before those final 50 games last season. Every hitter goes through slumps, particularly young ones who are attempting to make adjustments and improve at the big league level. It’s silly to say Archer’s value far outweighs Franklin’s. I think a trade of the two straight up wouldn’t be out of the question if we’re basing it solely on value.

          • Robbie_Knopf

            Let us just get something straight, raffish and Taylor: we are dealing with the same exact biases, only mine are in favor of the Rays and yours in favor of the Mariners. With that in mind, I am going to stop being defensive and ask you both a simple question: why would the Rays trade Chris Archer for a middle infielder in Franklin with no place on their team right now? Let’s switch perspectives for a moment and see if we can find a middle ground.

  • George from Tarpon

    I agree with Rob—trading Chris Archer for a Nick Franklin does not make sense for the Rays. Even more, I am not sure that we have room for a Nick Franklin for at least another year or two. His range is fair at SS—and at 2B we havd Zobrist at least for another year or more. Where does he play? I’d say the New York Mets.

    • david egbert

      I think it is telling that the Yankees don’t seem to be interested in Franklin. If anyone needs a second baseman, it’s the Yankees.

      • Robbie_Knopf

        I disagree–they simply don’t have the prospects.

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  • GaryintheLoo

    Pitchers can change rather dramatically in a short time but I think the real problem is your evaluation of Franklin. I just don’t see him worth an armful of decent prospects as I’m not convinced of his ceiling. Sign Zobrist instead and get cheap elsewhere.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      So you would not trade Colome and a couple low minors prospects for Franklin?