Could a Maikel Franco Trade to the Padres Be Imminent?

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

The San Diego Padres not only sold third baseman Christian Villanueva to Nippon Professional Baseball's Yomiuri Giants in Japan on Tuesday, but they are also discussing a trade of third baseman Wil Myers to the Seattle Mariners.

The Padres hot corner is beginning to look quite empty, and the Philadelphia Phillies have just the player to fill their void — Maikel Franco.

The Athletic's Matt Gelb reported on Tuesday that the Phillies are "positioned" to make a trade with another team, looking to create room on their 40-man roster. On Nov. 8, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury previously called Franco a "sure bet" to be traded:

… Third baseman Maikel Franco is pretty much a sure bet to be traded, and he knows that. According to sources, there is a deal to be made with San Diego. The Padres have long liked Franco, who finished first in batting average (.270), second in OPS (.780) and third in homers (22) for the Phillies in 2018.

Franco, 26, is up for his first year of arbitration eligibility and is one of nine candidates the Phillies could non-tender to create room on their 40-man roster. The Dominican Republic native's value at the plate and in the field would not make him a non-tender candidate, however.

Through five seasons, Franco is slashing .252/.303/.435 with 93 doubles,  85 home runs, 287 RBI and 137 walks, while posting a .956 career fielding percentage over 1,227 chances and 4,334 1/3 innings.

The Phillies currently have a logjam of infielders, and that is without even knowing whether Rhys Hoskins will return to first base, or if the club will add Manny Machado through free agency. J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery, Cesar Hernandez, Mitch Walding, and Carlos Santana are among the current infielders on the Phillies roster.

Trading Franco could open a spot for Santana to play everyday at third base, while allowing Hoskins to return to his more natural position at first.

As part of the rumored Myers trade with the Mariners, shortstop Jean Segura and right-hander Mike Leake have been discussed as the other half of the trade, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. Perhaps Leake, 31, could be flipped to the Phillies for Franco. The nine-year veteran made 31 starts with the Mariners last season and went 10-10 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.298 WHIP.

The Padres have reportedly been "eyeing" Franco as early as June of last season, if not prior.

"For a deal to happen, the Phillies would need to acquire someone else to play short or third. Scott Kingery currently is at shortstop, as J.P. Crawford recovers from a fractured left hand," Rosenthal said at the time of the rumor. "The Phils undoubtedly would add to Franco to get one of the Padres' top relievers, while the Padres would be gambling on Franco returning to form, knowing he has three more years of control. After a strong April, the Pads' Christian Villanueva has cratered offensively. "

Villanueva is now off the Padres roster, and Myers could be soon as well. The Padres need a third baseman, and the player they have wanted is available among a crowded Phillies infield roster.