The Phillies surprised fans on Sunday when they announced that they were optioning third baseman Maikel Franco to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room for Brad Miller, who was activated from the IL. At the same time, Scott Kingery, who has been somewhat of a super utility player for the team, was given the third base job in Franco’s absence.
Just last season, Franco led the team in hitting with a .270 average, was second in OPS at .780 and third in home runs with 22. In his first 30 games this season, Franco had seven home runs and 25 RBI and was batting .262 for the Phillies as both he and the team got off to a strong start out of the gate. He had a hot stretch in late June when he hit .423 (11-for-26) over seven games with three home runs and eight RBI. At the time that the Phillies optioned him to Lehigh Valley Sunday, Franco had produced a slash line of 15-47-.231/.296/.405 in 102 games with the Phillies.
Franco’s fate may have unknowingly been sealed when the team acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from Pittsburgh. The addition of Dickerson gives the team a glut of outfielders and made it easy for the team to move Kingery from center field to third base. The team will likley have to make another move as early as this week when Jay Bruce comes off of the IL. His presence will make the outfield situation even more crowded and will likely send either Sean Rodriguez or Adam Haseley to Lehigh Valley. If Rodriguez would be sent out, the Phillies would have to expose him to waivers and could risk losing him on a waiver claim.
Franco’s case also wasn’t helped by the fact that he is one of the few players on the 25-man roster who can play only one position. The Phillies – and most other MLB teams – have stressed position flexibility in players, especially ones who they use off the bench.
The Phillies avoided arbitration with Franco prior to the season with the two sides agreeing on a one-year, $5.2-milliion contract for the 2019 season. Franco has one more year of arbitration eligibility and can become a free agent following the 2021 season.