With the Seattle Mariners getting set to open Spring Training, new manager Lloyd McClendon has plenty of questions to answer before the 2014 season gets under way. One of the biggest questions may be what the team will do with second baseman Nick Franklin. After joining the team as a highly regarded prospect last season, Franklin seems to have been pushed from the lineup without a role in 2014 with a demotion to Triple-A seemingly inevitable.
After the team went out and spent so much on free agent Robinson Cano, there’s no chance that Franklin will retain his starting job there. The role of utility backup on the bench has also been filled by the re-acquisition of Willie Bloomquist, which leaves Franklin needing to beat out someone else for a starting job to have a a real role on the team this season. His best (and really only) option is at shortstop where he’ll have to beat out Brad Miller for the starting job, but that’s not all that likely.
Franklin played just three games at shortstop in 2013 while Miller came up midseason and started 62 games at short. That gives him a pretty substantial advantage in terms of experience heading into the spring defensively and the offensive slash-line for Franklin (.225/.303/.382) last season does not give him a leg-up on Miller (.265/.318/.418) either. In short, Franklin either needs to discover a previously unknown ability to play short or Miller needs to take a significant step back in Spring Training.
That puts Franklin on the path back to Tacoma, more than likely, without an obvious route back to the majors, barring injury or a serious slump from Miller. Does that make Franklin trade-bait for Seattle during the season or will the M’s be content to shelf their former prized prospect in their farm system?