Over the past few days, the issue of how the Detroit Tigers are going to solve the problem they now have at shortstop has become one of the hottest topics in the baseball world. One potential solution that has been offered is trading for Seattle Mariners middle infielder Nick Franklin.
However, Brad Miller, the player who is currently believed to have the edge over Franklin at shortstop in Seattle, would actually be a much better fit for the Tigers. The question, of course, is whether or not the Mariners would be willing to part ways with him, and if so, at what cost?
Miller, a left-handed hitter, is more of a pure hitter than the switch-hitting Franklin and he has the ability to hit for a much higher average. Miller batted a healthy .265 with eight HRs through 76 games with the Mariners last season, but he had an eye-popping .334 lifetime average in the three seasons he spent in the minor leagues. He has simply hit at every level he has played at.
Franklin, on the other hand, batted just .225 with 12 home runs through 102 games with the Mariners in 2013, and he struck out an alarming 113 times. To Franklin’s credit, however, he did have a solid .287 career batting average in the minor leagues, and he even hit as many as 23 home runs back in 2010 while playing for the class-A Clinton LumberKings. Franklin will certainly give a team some power, but the strikeouts will come along as part of the package.
Neither Miller nor Franklin are known for their defensive wizardry, and there has been talk of one or both of them eventually making the transition to the outfield. Miller made 55 errors in the three seasons he spent in the minor leagues, and Franklin is believed to be more of a second baseman who does not possess the range or the arm strength to play on the left side of the infield regularly.
However, the Tigers are not looking for a long-term shortstop, but are looking for a quick fix as Jose Iglesias will return someday, and both Miller and Franklin have bats that could make their defensive woes tolerable. In 2006, Carlos Guillen made 28 errors at shortstop, but he had a great season offensively and the Tigers still made a trip to the World Series.
Miller has also played a few games at third base in the minor leagues, so if the Tigers were to acquire him, perhaps they could move him to the hot corner when Iglesias returns and then move Nick Castellanos back to the outfield. They could also simply move Miller out to left field as well.
All of this, however, is wishful thinking. The Mariners are more likely to trade Franklin especially now that Miller is hitting .412 with four home runs in Spring Training while Franklin is batting just .242. If the Mariners were to shop Miller, the asking price would most likely be too high for the Tigers to be willing to deal.
Beggars cannot be choosers, but Franklin still appears to be more of an appealing solution to the Tigers’ shortstop problem than their in-house options of Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez and Danny Worth.
Many are considering 2014 to be a “make or break” year for the Tigers as there is no guarantee that Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter and Max Scherzer will be wearing the Old English D in 2015, and Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander have already reached their early 30s. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski would be wise to make a move.