By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ORLANDO, Fla. — So what happens to Nick Franklin now that the Seattle Mariners are committed to Robinson Cano at second base for the next decade?
“It could possibly give (Franklin) a shot to be the shortstop,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We could let him and (Brad) Miller fight it out.
“These young players have options. They don’t necessarily have to be on the club. Or we may be looking at an alternative position for him.”
Franklin, 22, batted .225 last season as a rookie in 102 games, but he is a former first-round pick (in 2009) and had 12 homers and 45 RBIs. Several clubs are already showing interest in the belief that he’s now available.
“That’s a fair assessment,” Zduriencik said, “but I also think when you have a talented young player who has options, you want to give him the opportunity (eventually) to be on your club.”
First baseman Jesus Montero will come to spring training with an opportunity, but no guarantees, to play his way onto the major-league roster.
“We all think Jesus is a very talented hitter,” Zduriencik said. “I think we saw a lot of that in the first year (2012) he was with us. Last year was really disappointing.”
Montero, 24, began last season as the club’s catcher but batted just .208 in 29 games before getting optioned to Class AAA Tacoma in late May.
It only got worse from there.
Montero required surgery in June on his left knee and, shortly after returning to active duty in mid-July, received a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis drug scandal.
“You know he’s a talented player,” Zduriencik said, “but he does have options. He is switching positions. At this moment in time, you can’t necessarily count on him.
“We’re not saying he won’t come in ready to roll, and all of a sudden you look at the Jesus Montero you thought you acquired. But I think you’d be foolish right now to say, we’re counting on this guy to be ‘this’ for you.
“He’s been through too much the last year, and he has too much to prove to all of us, for him to be someone you’re banking on.”
Bidding on Kemp, Hart
The Mariners and Boston Red Sox appear to be the two leading candidates in efforts by the Los Angeles Dodgers to trade outfielder Matt Kemp, who has $128 million remaining on his contract over the next six years.
The Dodgers are willing to eat part of Kemp’s contract but want a legitimate return in personnel.
Ankle and shoulder injuries last season limited Kemp, 29, to just 73 games, when he batted .270 with six homers and 33 RBI.
The Mariners are among several clubs pursuing free-agent first baseman Corey Hart, who missed all of last season because of two knee surgeries. Hart, 31, batted .270 in 2012 with 30 homers and 83 RBI in 149 games.
A Gutierrez reprise?
Could outfielder Franklin Gutierrez return next season to the Mariners? Zduriencik isn’t closing the door, but the club intends to pursue other options at this point.
Gutierrez, 30, battled injuries over the last three seasons and missed 106 games last year because of time on the disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. He batted .248 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 41 games.
The Mariners allowed Gutierrez to become a free agent by exercising a $500,000 buyout on their $7.5 million option for 2014.