Another Oriole is having a different season than he did with the KC Royals.
Kansas City’s December 2020 signing of third baseman Maikel Franco came out of the blue. The Royals’ third sacker was Hunter Dozier and, despite some misgivings about his defense, he seemed a good third base fit. And Franco wasn’t known for stellar defense.
Bringing Franco aboard turned out to be part of a bigger plan that perhaps never involved a serious attempt to shore up the Royals’ hot corner defense. Fast on the heels of Franco’s signing came news that Dozier was moving to right field to play alongside Whit Merrifield, who was shifting from second base to center. Franco would play third.
Merrifield ended up appearing more times in right (34) than he did center (23); Dozier played only 18 times in right, a circumstance driven primarily by his move to first base when neither Ryan O’Hearn nor Ryan McBroom could handle the job.
But the Franco part of the Royals’ plan worked. He played third base in 51 games (he also DH’d and took a couple of turns at first, and didn’t miss a game). And his eight home runs, 38 RBIs and .278 average probably exceeded expectations. Those numbers, and his personality and positive clubhouse presence, seemed to make Franco a candidate to return to the Royals.
But in a move easily perceived as clearing 40-man roster space on the eve of the Rule 5 draft, the club non-tendered Franco in early December. The Royals could have re-signed him after the Rule 5, but didn’t, and Franco went searching for a new home.
He landed in Baltimore with two weeks left in spring training. Unfortunately, his 2021 with the Orioles is, at least so far, not as good in some respects as his 2020 with the Royals.
Franco is playing regularly (77 of the O’s 89 games), and has nine home runs and 42 RBIs, but he’s hitting only .221 with a .265 OBP. Franco’s 75 OBP+ is 18 points below his career 93, and well below last season’s 109. He’s never had a full season OPS+ under 79.
He’s also been injured—he’s missed every game in July with an ankle sprain and finally went on the Injured List July 7, but is eligible to come off the List this weekend.
Some former Royals aren’t having great seasons with Baltimore. Kansas City fans may get to see them this weekend.