The 27-year-old third base target for the Brewers was non-tendered at yesterday’s deadline after just one season with the Kansas City Royals.
Wednesday’s MLB non-tender deadline didn’t just mean certain Brewers players being retained or let go (or being traded at the last second, in one case). It also meant a new crop of players available to possibly help improve Milwaukee’s roster for 2021.
The Brewers still could use some help at third base, which was true even before yesterday’s non-tender deadline. Luckily, there just so happens to be one who was non-tendered by his former club yesterday who could be a good fit for the Crew.
Third baseman Maikel Franco, now formerly of the Royals, was among the casualties of yesterday’s deadline. He was projected to make anywhere from $4.5MM to $8MM in arbitration this offseason per MLB Trade Rumors, a price that was apparently a bit too high for Kansas City.
Franco spent just one year as a Royal after having spent his entire career prior to 2020 with the Philadelphia Phillies. His tenure there also ended via non-tender as Philadelphia let him go in that fashion last offseason.
Unlike some other corner infield options who could be somewhat of a reclamation project, Franco had decent numbers in 2020. If the Brewers think he is able to carry the numbers into 2021, then he is definitely worth an inquiry by the team.
At the right price, Maikel Franco could solve the Brewers’ third base woes from the 2020 season.
It’s hard overstate how rough the Brewers looked at third base in 2020. In 215 plate appearances, Milwaukee third basemen slashed .200/.279/.295 for the season, hitting just three home runs, compiling a wRC+ of just 56, and striking out 23.3% of the time.
Franco’s 2020 season alone would have eclipsed that by far. In playing all 60 games, he slashed .278/.321/.457 last year with eight homers and a 106 wRC+. His 1.3 fWAR would’ve actually led every Brewers hitter last season.
Prior to landing in Kansas City, his career with the Phillies was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He burst on to the scene with his first significant amount of playing time in 2015 when he slashed .280/.343/.497 and had a career high 129 wRC+ while hitting 14 homers in just 80 games.
His production slid a bit in 2016 and 2017 (92 and 76 wRC+, repectively) as he became a full-timer for the first time in his career before bouncing back up in 2018 (104 wRC+). Franco had 20+ homers in each of those three seasons.
2019 saw his wRC+ dip to a career low 70 (not counting 2014 when he only played in 16 games), ultimately resulting in his non-tender from Philadelphia, before the bounceback last season. Despite that, he still finds himself needing a new home.
Franco would have a little bit of work to do in some Statcast areas as his exit velocity (86.7 mph) and launch angle (8.4 degrees) were both at career lows in 2020.
But for a power guy, he doesn’t strike out much. His 15.6% strikeout rate last year was right around his career average and in the 84th percentile in the league per Statcast. And considering the Brewers struck out a lot in 2020, it’s an area where they could definitely use help.
That brings it all down to price. As mentioned earlier, the low end of Franco’s projected arbitration range was $4.5MM. The Brewers would likely try to get him to accept a contract somewhere between that and the $2.95MM contract he signed for last season considering they convinced players like Orlando Arcia and Omar Narvaez to take pay cuts during yesterday’s flurry of moves.
There aren’t many other clear options to upgrade the third base position, though. So if the Brewers think they can get Franco at the right price, they should strongly consider the signing.