Former top Phils prospect Franco signs with Orioles, who put Harvey on 60-day injured list

JON MEOLI
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Kansas City Royals third baseman Maikel Franco throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

With two weeks left in spring training, the Baltimore Orioles bolstered their depth at third base and added a potential starter at the position by signing free agent Maikel Franco to a major league deal Tuesday.

According to MLB Network, Franco will make $800,000 this year and can begin the season in the minors on an option because of the late start to spring training he’s getting.

Franco, a former top prospect with the Philadelphia Phillies who was signed when Orioles senior director of international scouting Koby Perez was with Philadelphia, played in all 60 games for the Kansas City Royals in 2020.

As the Royals’ everyday third baseman, Franco, 27, hit .278 with a .778 OPS and eight home runs.

Before that, Franco spent four years as a regular for the Phillies. He hit .247 with a .725 OPS from 2016 to 2019. He has three seasons with 20 or more home runs in his resume, but as he reached his later years of salary arbitration, the Phillies decided to move on.

While with the New York Mets, Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey faced Franco in National League East matchups and was his teammates late year in Kansas City. After his start Monday, Harvey said Franco would be a welcome addition.

“Obviously, playing against him when he was with the Phillies and then playing with him last year, the guy’s got some serious pop and can do some damage, for sure,” Harvey said. “Having him at third, whoever it is, obviously, I’m not in charge of those decisions, but he definitely has an unbelievable arm and plays a good third base. He can swing it. From the short season last year that I spent time with him, he’s a great teammate. Whatever obviously is decided, it’ll be good to have some extra bats always.”

Over the past two years, the Orioles have relied heavily on Rio Ruiz as their everyday third baseman. He has hit .229 with a .692 OPS and 21 home runs in 181 games with Baltimore. The Orioles have been in contact with Franco over the course of this month, but perhaps the match made more sense as they saw their depth at the position with Ruiz missing a week-plus with an illness.

Asked last week about how he felt about the team’s depth options at third base, with Pat Valaika, Ramón Urías, Rylan Bannon, and Stevie Wilkerson all getting time there, manager Brandon Hyde only said that the team had plenty of choices and were looking at all of them.

To create space on the Orioles’ full 40-man roster, the Orioles placed right-hander Hunter Harvey on the 60-day injured list with a left oblique strain he suffered while pitching Friday.