Examining Phillies’ Bizarre Interest in Mike Moustakas & What It Means for Maikel Franco

Although the team is still fully focused on bringing superstar slugger Manny Machado to the City of Brotherly Love, the Phillies have a rather surprising contingency plan in place should they fall short. In a recent piece recapping the latest offseason buzz, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported that the Phillies (and White Sox) have been monitoring the market for free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. The reported interest is nothing new, as the Phils nearly pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire him at the trade deadline last season, but their infatuation with the former Royal is somewhat perplexing as he doesn’t represent much of an upgrade from incumbent starter Maikel Franco. In fact, replacing Franco with Moustakas would be a lateral move at best, though I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call the potential swap a downgrade.

Franco certainly hasn’t been the world-beater some projected him to be when he was making his rapid ascension through the minor leagues but hasn’t severely underwhelmed either, often times serving as one of the more productive bats in the lineup. Furthermore, his stats are incredibly comparable to that of the reportedly preferred Moustakas since becoming a full-time starter in 2016:

Player

Year

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Maikel Franco

2016-18

1589

181

397

69

3

71

232

110

263

.250

.299

.431

.730

Mike Moustakas

2016-18

1232

1232

153

63

1

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73

193

4

210

.260

.314

.490

.804

It’s important to note that Moustakas was limited to just 27 games in 2016 after suffering a torn ACL, but the numbers reflect just how closely ranked the two are in terms of production. Franco is a bit more streaky and strikes out more often, but that’s understandable considering he’s four years younger and has been in the majors for three full seasons less than the 30-year Moustakas. With a bit more major league seasoning I’m confident that Franco could surpass Moustakas’ value as a batter- for a fraction of the cost.

I could understand a potential swap more if Moustakas was a gold-glove caliber third baseman, but he committed just three fewer errors than Franco did at the hot corner last season. GM Matt Klentak’s desire to improve the Phils at every conceivable position is admirable, but I don’t think replacing Franco with Moustakas drastically improves the team or soothes the pain of a potential second-place finish in the Machado sweepstakes.

Perhaps sophomore skipper Gabe Kapler just wants another lefty batter in the lineup. Or maybe the team feels they’ve waited on Franco to turn the corner long enough and simply want to wash their hands clean. Either way, Moustakas would be a more expensive, older option than Franco that likely wouldn’t be the difference between a playoff berth or starkly improve the position. If the Phillies miss out on Machado, I think they would be much better served to stick with Franco for another year since they likely won’t be playing in October anyway. Hopefully, though, the team is able to come to an agreement with Machado and we can avoid the ‘average third baseman’ carousel that’s plagued the team since the departure of Scott Rolen.

 

Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

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