By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Whether or not you believe the Mariners’ shortstop battle is legitimate, most who follow the team seem to believe that Nick Franklin will be traded by the end of spring training. General manager Jack Zduriencik is putting no such deadline on a possible move, however, even indicating Wednesday there is a very good chance we could see both Brad Miller and Franklin still with the organization when camp breaks.
M’s general manager Jack Zduriencik said he’s perfectly content with keeping Nick Franklin (pictured) and Brad Miller after one of them wins the shortstop competition. (AP)
“We are not forced to do anything,” he told “Bob and Groz” on 710 ESPN Seattle. “I like both players a lot. You never know what could happen. All of the sudden someone twists an ankle, someone pulls a muscle – to have depth is good. But like any general manager your ears are wide open, so if someone comes talking and they talk to you about a proposal that makes a ton of sense then I think you have to listen.
“But we’re not shopping either player. I don’t have intentions of trading either guy, but part of my job is to listen to what people have to say when they call and I do that.”
Posturing? Perhaps more sending a message. After an offseason filled with headlines like “Mariners must do this” and “Mariners must do that” in the national media, Zduriencik made a statement much like the statements he made about not trading Felix Hernandez years ago. We obviously are dealing with apples and oranges here but there is no question this organization values Franklin and no question that if he is traded anytime soon it will be Zduriencik who is in the driver’s seat of the deal.
I have said all along that this deal only happens if Zduriencik gets exactly what he wants. My guess is that hasn’t been made available and with the Diamondbacks now shopping Didi Gregorius and the Cardinals looking to trade Pete Kozma, all of a sudden there are shortstop options available on the market. Not great shortstops, but shortstops with big-league experience and perhaps fewer questions about whether or not they can field the position.
I like what I have seen from Franklin at shortstop but I don’t have to hand him an every-day position less than two weeks before the start of the season. That is a tougher call for scouts, who have more riding on their decisions.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Franklin isn’t traded. The question then is what’s next for him? Is he truly depth at Triple-A? A better question would be this: if he is playing shortstop at Triple-A then is it as insurance or to try to continue to increase his value? What about a position change? This is easier said than done and you don’t need to look any further than Dustin Ackley for evidence of that. The intrigue could continue after March 30.
• Miller had another big day with the bat, going 3 for 4 with a triple. Miller is 14 for his last 22. He currently leads all of baseball this spring with a 1.000 slugging percentage and 1.512 OPS.
• Erasmo Ramirez will get the start against the Cubs Thursday while Felix Hernandez will get his innings in a minor-league game against the Brewers at the Mariners’ complex in Peoria. Why is Felix starting in a minor-league game? Because manager Lloyd McClendon gave him the choice of staying back and facing the minor leaguers or traveling to Mesa, the longest “roadtrip” the Mariners make in the spring. Felix elected to stay home. I did get a peek at the travel roster, however, and it looks like the majority of the team will be traveling to Mesa to face the Cubs.
• Taijuan Walker threw his third bullpen since his returning from being shut down with shoulder bursitis and all went well. He threw 40 pitches and after told me that everything felt “normal”. He was relieved, in fact, to have the normal soreness he has after throwing. This is much different from the soreness he had earlier in camp. Walker hopes that his next work will come against hitters in either a simulated game or live batting practice session, but he may have to throw one more bullpen before the Mariners allow him to face anyone with a bat.