Franco ignoring rumors, ready for 3B battle

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Maikel Franco followed the endless and often mind-numbing speculation the past few months from the Dominican Republic.

Franco knows that Manny Machado could show up at Spectrum Field at any moment. The Phillies entertained him at Citizens Bank Park just before Christmas. They have made him at least one contract offer. If the Phillies sign him, Franco also knows he could be traded.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Maikel Franco followed the endless and often mind-numbing speculation the past few months from the Dominican Republic.

Franco knows that Manny Machado could show up at Spectrum Field at any moment. The Phillies entertained him at Citizens Bank Park just before Christmas. They have made him at least one contract offer. If the Phillies sign him, Franco also knows he could be traded.

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“I’ve heard a lot about it, but I’m not even thinking about it,” Franco said. “I just think about what I have to do, what I have to improve, what I have to do to get better. I just try to be away from it and do my job.

“I know they talk about trading me and things like that, but I’m happy to be here with my guys, and that’s a good thing.”

Even if Machado signs elsewhere, Franco has a battle on his hands. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said that Franco and Scott Kingery will compete for playing time at third base. It is an interesting matchup considering Franco hit .270 with 22 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .780 OPS in 2018, making it his most productive season since ’15, while Kingery hit .226 with eight homers, 35 RBIs and a .605 OPS as a rookie.

But the Phillies love Kingery, and he needs to play somewhere. And with Jean Segura at shortstop, Cesar Hernandez at second base and the outfield crowded, third base is Kingery’s best option for playing time.

“He explained everything,” Franco said about Kapler. “I understand the situation.”

Video: WSH@PHI: Franco uses bare hand to retire Eaton in 3rd

Another interesting thing here is that while the Phillies will not call Franco the everyday third baseman, they also seem cool on the idea of bringing in somebody like free agent Mike Moustakas to play third base, if they are unable to sign Machado. The Phillies might not consider Moustakas a clear upgrade over Franco, although Moustakas seems to be a better defensive player and is known as a tremendous clubhouse presence.

So 2019 might be Machado or some combination of Franco and Kingery at third base.

“We’ve got some really good options,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. “I think one of the things about Franco specifically that you’ve heard me say, and I’ll continue to say it, is that he’s still very young. He’s still — from an aging curve perspective — he’s still on the ascent of his career. We saw that in flashes last year, where he was carrying a .900 OPS for a significant stretch of time. And having said that, we also know how strongly we believe in Scott Kingery with the contract we gave him and the reps we gave him last year and what he did this offseason with his work ethic. We think we have two really good options over there.”

Franco said he came to camp at 225 pounds, about 10 pounds lighter than last season.

“I’m motivated,” Franco said. “My mind is 100 percent ready. I know what I have to do better and how I can help the team.”

Video: PHI@TOR: Franco hammers a 2-run dinger to left field

Franco also worked on a leg kick in the offseason, which he plans to carry into games this spring. It has worked for Rhys Hoskins and others. Maybe it unlocks Franco’s potential, too.

“It will be a beautiful thing,” Franco said. “I worked on it a lot, and I know it will help my balance and direction. That’s what I’m looking for as a hitter, stay balanced and drive the ball that I want to drive.”

And if the Phillies sign Machado in the coming days or weeks?

“I can’t control that,” Franco said. “I just try to be me and do my work and get ready, and whatever happens happens.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/phi/maikel-franco-avoids-manny-machado-rumors?ymd=20190217&content_id=304070514&vkey=news_phi

Author: InGame Sports

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