Orioles Finalizing Contract With Maikel Franco

6:24PM: Franco and the Orioles are in the final stages of a contract, Heyman tweets.

12:19PM: The Orioles are working on a deal with free agent third baseman Maikel Franco, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). The deal is not yet finalized, Heyman adds. The Orioles have put an offer on the table, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter).

Franco would make a logical roster fit for the O’s, so it’s hardly surprising the sides are in discussions. Currently, Baltimore is slated to turn to Rio Ruiz at the hot corner. The 27-year-old Ruiz has just a .229/.299/.393 line across 617 plate appearances (84 wRC+) over the past two seasons. He has shown roughly league average power (21 home runs, .164 ISO), but his on-base deficiencies and slightly below-average defensive ratings at third have left him hovering just above replacement level overall.

It’s reasonable to expect Franco to offer an upgrade on that production. The former Phillies’ top prospect showed flashes of promise in Philadelphia but never amounted to expectations. After being cut loose by the Phillies, though, Franco posted a decent season with the Royals in 2020. He played in all sixty of Kansas City’s games (starting 51) and hit .278/.321/.457. As with Ruiz, low walk rates and batting averages on balls in play have led to on-base deficiencies. Franco, though, strikes out less often and has hit for a little more power than the O’s current third baseman.

Even amidst a full rebuild, there’s value for the Orioles in making improvements at the margins of the roster. Barring an unexpected breakout in 2021, it’d be hard to imagine Franco commanding a huge trade return. Still, should he sign, Franco would be a viable candidate to be flipped for something of future value at the deadline. Non-tendered by the Royals last fall, he’d surely come at a low cost.

The Orioles should have little problem fitting Franco onto the books if a deal ultimately comes together. Currently, Cot’s Baseball Contracts projects Baltimore to field a $56.5MM payroll in 2021, one of the five lowest marks in the sport. Franco would join shortstop Freddy Galvis (one year, $1.5MM) as Baltimore’s only major league free agent signees of the winter.

Published at Mon, 15 Mar 2021 04:06:26 +0000

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