This offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays almost acquired Nick Franklin from the Seattle Mariners before an injury to Jeremy Hellickson caused them to reconsider. Now, there is a chance that another trade that could have made Franklin a Ray fell through at the last second again.
Peter Gammons told the Dennis & Callahan Show on WEEI that the Mariners thought they were about to acquire Zobrist before the Rays decided not to go through with the trade because of their recent strong play. The Rays have closed to within 7.5 games of the AL East after winning 17 of their last 22 games, the second-best record in baseball during that time, and they are hanging onto hope that they can win the weakest AL East division since 2000. The Rays told the Mariners that they will reevaluate the possibility of a trade within 48 hours of the July 31st trade deadline.
If the Rays were going to trade Ben Zobrist, who they value more highly then anyone in baseball, then clearly the Mariners were were willing to deal a top prospect like Franklin to get a deal done. More details of the delayed trade should surface to confirm exactly who was involved, but there is a high probability that Franklin was indeed part of the return for the Rays. Jon Heyman previously reported that the Rays have been talking with Seattle about Franklin for several weeks, and Ken Rosenthal added more today. Rosenthal states that Franklin is likely to be traded before July 31st, whether as part of a blockbuster like a David Price trade or a smaller deal built around him. If the Rays do not acquire Franklin in a Zobrist (or Price) trade, it would be interesting to see if they would target him in a prospect-for-prospect type of swap.
This whole Ben Zobrist-Nick Franklin saga is something that we will have to continue monitoring as the trade deadline approaches. At the very least, Rays fans can know for certain that the Rays are more hesitant to trade their impact players realizing that their team is finally clicking and can’t be counted out in the AL East race.