One of the major story lines for the 2018 Phillies is that they needed to settle some questions about players who may or may not be part of their future as the team moves into contention.  One such question surrounded third baseman Maikel Franco: can he maintain the consistency necessarily to be part of the team's plans?  That question may be answered in the negative.

For the second straight game upon shortstop J.P. Crawford's activation from the disabled list, the starting lineup was rather surprising.  Scott Kingery, who played shortstop in the absence of Crawford, remained at shortstop.  Crawford, meanwhile, shifted to another position: third base.

The move put Franco on the bench.

Friday's lineup could have been more understandable, as the Phillies wanted to keep Kingery's hot bat in the lineup and start some left-handed bats against the right-handed Jhoulys Chacin.  Saturday's start, though, seemed to really send a clear message to Franco.  Even with lefty Brent Suter on the mound, the Phillies opted for the left-handed Crawford over Franco.

Suter's splits are what one might expect from a lefty; opponents are hitting .224 left-handed to .275 right-handed.

In the last 30 days, Franco is batting just .184 with one home run and four runs batted in.  This comes after a period from late-April to mid-May when Franco seemed to finally be breaking out into the player many hoped he could be.  Then game the all-too-often regression that has plagued Franco's career.

If the Phillies feel as if they can remain in contention in 2018, they may be interested in a trade for a third baseman.  Free agents-to-be include Josh Donaldson (though currently on the disabled list) of the Toronto Blue Jays and Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.  Then there is Manny Machado, who the Baltimore Orioles may trade ahead of free agency.

In a recent Todd Zolecki piece on MLB.com, Zolecki writes that the Phillies could be hesitant to trade top pieces for a two-month rental, while they will be willing to spend this offseason.  Even with Machado on board, Moustakas might appeal to the Phillies as a left-handed bat, who will not even cost a draft pick to sign, thanks to being offered a qualifying offer this past offseason.

But either way, the Phillies appear to be ready to move on from the third baseman they once thought would be part of the future. Franco has shown that he has some real talent, but he is simply not consistent enough for the team to count on.  So, the Phillies are looking at other options now and possibly more later.