Now, “problem” may be an unfair word because it isn’t like Franklin is causing trouble. He’s just playing ball, trying to have fun and dealing with constant rumors about his imminent departure from the Mariners.
For the Mariners, the challenge is putting the right players in the best positions. This is obviously the task of every organization, but the mighty M’s seem to have their share of unresolved issues.
Brad Miller or Nick Franklin? Does one really need to be traded? Or, do you just stash Franklin at Triple-A Tacoma since he is under club control for the next few seasons?
Do you move Franklin to the outfield, as suggested by Lookout Landing? Why not put Miller out there? After all, Dustin Ackley was already moved to the outfield grass, and no one seems to be terribly confident in his ability to play defense.
Speaking of lacking confidence, it doesn’t seem like the current slate of outfielders is getting anyone excited about the upcoming season. Ackley can’t play defense and could easily fall into another hitting slump. Michael Saunders is good on defense but not great with the bat. Abraham Almonte is simply unproven. Corey Hart is an injury waiting to happen. Logan Morrison is a younger version of Hart’s problem.
So, why not think about Franklin in the outfield grass? Why can’t the Mariners have a whole slate of former second basemen patrolling the spacious lawn at Safeco Field?
Granted, Robinson Cano is probably not going to be up for a position change at this point in his career.
Obviously the fans can tend to think in very simple terms. Yes, these guys are great athletes. Yes, Nick Franklin can run and probably track down a fly ball. That said, there is an art to playing the outfield. It is pretty easy for “softball guy” to assume that all you have to do is run around and avoid hitting the wall. Unfortunately, being a professional outfielder is a bit more than that.
The Mariners just have to decide what they want to build in terms of team chemistry. Ackley may be a defensive liability in the outfield, but the Mariners are willing to take the risk and hope that his offense compensates for subpar defense. I’m sure there are people out there that can calculate the positive impact of a good bat versus the negative results of poor fielding. In other words, if the Mariners are up four runs, does it matter if Ackley or Franklin misplay a ball in the outfield every few games?
Given the lack of solid outfield options, is it crazy to send Franklin to Tacoma and have him try to the outfield? Players have changed positions before. They will certainly do it in the future.