The Philadelphia Phillies activated infielder Brad Miller from the injured list on Sunday. In a surprising corresponding move, the Phillies demoted third baseman Maikel Franco to the minors. Franco started at the hot corner in 86 of the club’s 110 games this season and has been a fixture on their roster for five seasons.
Franco, 27 in a few weeks, is in the midst of the worst season of his big-league career. He’ll head to the minors hitting .231/.296/.405 (79 OPS+) with 15 home runs. Barring a last-minute turnaround, he’ll finish below replacement-level for the second time in three seasons. Franco has been particularly poor since a hot start. He entered May with an .844 OPS. Yet since April, he’s posted a .637 OPS with more than twice as many strikeouts (37) as extra-base hits (16).
Miller, meanwhile, has performed well in limited action this season. Between stints in Cleveland and Philadelphia, he’s hit .234/.330/.455 (101 OPS+) while seeing action at various positions. He’s never been known for his defense, but historically he’s been a quality hitter versus righties.
That the Phillies chose Miller over Franco seems like a justifiable call — even more so when you consider how the single trade deadline encourages teams to preserve their depth through any means necessary. The only non-Miller/Franco reserve on the Phillies roster with options is backup catcher Andrew Knapp, and obviously the Phillies were not going to send him down.
Theoretically, the Phillies could have farmed out a pitcher and rolled with a five-player bench. But they’d prefer to have the extra pitcher. It’s hard to blame them given how Franco has played.
Franco, by the way, will again be arbitration eligible this winter. He’s a non-tender candidate.