Tag: Frank Francisco

Ranking the Best Remaining Players the Marlins Could Invite to Spring Training

We’re less than a month away from when pitchers and catchers report to spring training, so it’s time to assess what the Miami Marlins need and who is still out there to be had.

But before we begin, let’s check the Marlins shopping list and see if there’s anything the Marlins forgot to buy.

An offensively skilled catcher? Check. The Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year contract worth $21 million. 

A power-hitting first baseman? Check. The Marlins signed Garrett Jones to a two-year deal worth $7.75 million.

An upgrade at second base? Check. The Marlins signed Rafael Furcal to a one-year agreement worth $3 million. Furcal can also earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Fixing the black hole known as third base? Check. The Marlins signed Casey McGehee to a one-year pact worth $1.1 million. McGehee can also earn an extra $400,000 in performance bonuses. 

About the only item still on the Marlins shopping cart is a veteran reliever, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, especially after the Marlins nontendered Ryan Webb, who signed with the Baltimore Orioles, while Chad Qualls inked a deal with the Houston Astros

Looking back at last season, the Marlins signed Qualls and Jon Rauch and they had a few commonalities. For starters, both guys signed a one-year pactQualls on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training while Rauch joined the Marlins on a $1 million contract. The other commonality they had was Qualls and Rauch had experience in high-leverage situationsQualls has 51 career saves while Rauch had 62—which might come in handy as Steve Cishek was penciled in as the team’s full-time closer. 

Now, the Marlins are probably looking to add a reliever or two in the same mold as Qualls and Rauch even though Rauch was designated for assignment six weeks into the 2013 season while Qualls (5-2 record, 2.61 ERA in 62 innings) exceeded expectations. 

Without further ado, in descending order, here are the best remaining available free agent relievers the Marlins could target for an invitation to spring training or sign to a major league contract.

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New York Mets: Will Frank Francisco Lose His Closer Job to Bobby Parnell?

Watching Mets‘ closer Frank Francisco pitch is like playing Russian Roulette. On the one hand, he can fire bullets right past hitters.

On the other, he can blow a lead and make you want to blow your own brains out.

Doubts about Francisco’s closing ability have been common all season. It’s not so much that he blows saves. He’s got 18 saves on the season, and 3 blown saves.

But, every outing is an adventure.

Look at his 17th save of the season, for example. Francisco preserved the Mets’ lead as they beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3. Looks good on paper.

Here’s the reality. Francisco saved his own skin as much as the game. The Mets went into the ninth leading 4-2. Francisco faced seven batters, threw 33 pitches—closers who throw more than 20 pitches an inning are usually in trouble—gave up two hits, two walks and an earned run before getting the third out.

That’s not a closer’s performance, and it wasn’t Francisco’s only shaky outing of the season.

Francisco is now on the 15-day DL after suffering a left oblique strain. Manager Terry Collins has named Bobby Parnell the closer until Francisco’s return.

Question is, will Francisco still be the closer when he returns?

That depends on Parnell’s performance, of course. He’s already proven to the be the best of the worst bullpen in baseball.

I’ll acknowledge that being a closer is a specialized, high-pressure role. And, by definition Francisco has a tougher job.

But that, as the cliche goes, is why he gets the big, big bucks.

Yet, Francisco has been anything but closer-like, even with 18 saves. He’s given up 32 hits, 14 walks, and 16 earned runs in 29 innings. That’s too much of everything to sustain over the course of a season.

Parnell hasn’t been setting the pen on fire, either. In 31 innings, he’s given up 33 hits, 8 walks and 11 earned runs. Both pitchers have given up 3 home runs, and both have struck out 31 batters.

With such a minor margin of difference, what’s the deciding factor?

That shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. The deciding factor will be who’s on the trade market.

Neither Francisco nor Parnell have the chops to last the season as a closer. Remember, Parnell was given a shot at the closer role late last year, and he didn’t impress.

The reason that Francisco has drawn more ire, apart from his cardiac-inducing pitching, is he’s paid a lot more.

Francisco has a two-year, $12 million contract. In a period when the Mets are preoccupied with financial matters, they need maximum return on their investments. Francisco is not exactly coming off as the $6 million man.

Parnell is better suited to where he is now—late-inning relief.

The Mets may not be acknowledging it publicly, but with a bullpen that has a 5.17 ERA and a closer—Francisco, that is—with a 4.97 ERA, they have to be looking for help.

When it comes down to Parnell versus Francisco in the closer sweepstakes, the winner is a “Pitcher to Be Named Later.”

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New York Mets: Why a 2012 Playoff Run Depends on Acquiring a New Closer

The New York Mets have done surprisingly well so far this season, and as June nears, there are whispers of a playoff run.

They have the tools at the plate. David Wright has an all-multiverse batting average of .373, and the Mets have been pleasantly surprised by the output of Mike Baxter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Daniel Murphy and others once considered little more than fill-ins.

Props also go to the starting pitchers. Any lingering concerns about Johan Santana’s surgically repaired shoulder were erased in his complete game shutout of the San Diego Padres last week. R.A. Dickey is having an All-Star season.

Props are also due to closer Frank Francisco—for his last few outings, anyway. A change in his bullpen sessions has improved his pitching tremendously after a very shaky start to the season. At one point, his ERA was above 8.00 and he was consistently throwing more than 20 pitches an inning. That is not a winning formula for a closer.

Still, Francisco has 13 saves this season—one off the National League lead. Concerns that he was tipping his pitches seem to have abated.

Here’s the rub: Francisco’s recent success has come against underperforming teams. The Mets are into their toughest stretch of the season so far, with series against the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and the surging Washington Nationals. Then comes their interleague series against the Yankees, always a tough slog for the Amazins no matter how the Bombers are performing.

With the recent adjustments to his mechanics, it’s possible that Francisco will be up to the task, assuming that the Mets can hold at least a few leads into the late innings. But Francisco has a troubling characteristic: It doesn’t take much to get him off his game.

Take his blown save against the Miami Marlins earlier this month: Francisco was angered by a few close calls on pitches and was eventually tossed from the game by the home plate umpire after blowing the lead.

Solid hits by opposing players have also rattled Francisco. On those occasions, he’s acted like he’s been possessed by Armando Benitez. When his cool evaporates, so does his control.

That leads to another concern: high pitch counts. Francisco has kept his pitch count down the last few games, which is an encouraging sign. But if he resumes throwing upwards of 25 pitches an inning, it won’t be long before his stamina is played out.

The Mets would do well to seek out a quality reliever who could step into the closer role in the event Francisco falters. That won’t be easy this year. Injuries have bedeviled bullpens everywhere, and a number of closers are having disappointing seasons. The competition for healthy closers is bound to be fierce as the trade deadline gets closer.

Brett Myers, anyone?

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Fantasy Baseball Fabulous Foursome: Why You Should Buy Hosmer, Wainwright & More

The “Fabulous Foursome” is a new column here at Rotoprofessor that we are going to run once a week focusing on four players fantasy owners should be looking to acquire for various reasons (for example, a new closer, prospect on the verge of a recall, buy-low candidates, etc.). 

Let’s take a look at who you should be targeting this week:

1) Eric HosmerKansas City RoyalsFirst Baseman
He was impressive in his rookie season (.293, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 66 R, 11 SB in 523 AB).  That’s what makes his early season struggles so surprising.  Would anyone have expected him to open the year hitting a measly .174 over his first 144 AB?

Yes, he’s added 5 HR, 18 RBI and 16 R, but it’s not hard to imagine owners in your league not being willing to overlook the pathetic average that is staring them in the face.  You know some people will equate this to a sophomore slump, which could provide you with an opportunity to cash in.

Granted, Hosmer is not hitting the ball with as much authority as he did in 2011 (15.2 percent vs. 18.7 percent), which is a little bit concerning.  However, that drop-off should not equate to a complete collapse in production.  He has the ability to hit for a much higher average and, sooner or later, things would indicate that he’s going to get there:

  • He is continuing to make great contact, with an 11.5 percent strikeout rate
  • When he puts the ball in play, he has had awful luck with a .165 BABIP (the worst number among players with at least 100 plate appearances)

Does anyone really think that he’s going to continue to be this bad?  It’s hard to imagine.  The Royals have begun moving him around the lineup a little bit in order to get him going, but you know once he starts to hit he’ll settle right back into the middle.

Could the Royals opt to send the 22-year old back to Triple-A to try and snap out of this struggle?  It’s possible, but don’t let that deter you.  If other people are talking about that, his value is only going to fall a little bit more.  And, the fact is, a stop in the minors could easily help him get things back on track.

Now is the perfect time to try and get him at a discount from another owner.  The luck is going to turn around and you may not get a better opportunity to acquire him.  Remember, he is the same player who hit .293 in 2011 and .312 for his minor league career.  Stay patient.


2) Jerry SandsLos Angeles DodgersOutfielder/First Baseman

Even before the Dodgers lost Matt Kemp to the 15-day disabled list, one could argue that they needed offensive help at first base (in place of James Loney) or in the outfield (in place of Bobby Abreu/Tony Gwynn Jr. who are seeing time due to Juan Rivera being on the DL). 

So, the fact that they are giving Sands an opportunity should not surprise anyone.  Also, if he hits during this current audition, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he sticks around in the everyday lineup.

Over Sands’ minor league career (1,421 AB) he’s hit .284 with 100 HR and 300 RBI.  The power has really been burgeoning in recent years:

  • 35 HR in 2010 (between Single & Double-A)
  • 33 HR in 2011 (between Triple-A & the Majors)

The fact that he’s shown power at every level helps to stop the complaint that he’s a product of the Pacific Coast League (he has 36 HR in 506 AB at Triple-A).  The fact is, Sands showed his power potential when he got a shot to play with the Dodgers in 2011.  Yes, he had just 4 HR, but he also added 15 doubles in 198 AB.

He may strikeout a decent amount (20.5 percent over his minor league career), but it shouldn’t be a crippling number.  Just assume that he’s going to hit in the .260ish range and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Even with that concern, how often can you find a player with his type of power potential on the waiver wire in the middle of May?  The Dodgers certainly didn’t call him up to sit on the bench, so look for him to be in the lineup regularly until Kemp returns.  If he hits, he’s going to be there much longer than that.  Now is the perfect time to try and cash in.

3) Adam WainwrightSt. Louis CardinalsStarting Pitcher

Wainwright has struggled after missing the entire 2011 season.  To an extent it’s not surprising, though I think we all were willing to stomach a few bumps.  Is anyone willing to deal with a 5.77 ERA and 1.53 WHIP?  Probably not, though you should because there are plenty of reasons to do so.

First off, most pitchers struggle with control in their first year back.  For Wainwright his “struggles” have been a 3.30 BB/9 (and the first time he walked more than two in a game was in his start on 5/12).  Nothing not to like there.

Next, you have to love the fact that he’s still generating groundballs.  In fact, his current 55.6% groundball rate is a career high.

He’s also striking batters out at a career best rate, with an 8.24 K/9.  That’s right where he was prior to the injury.

So, with these factors working in his favor, how are his numbers so bad?  It’s just bad luck.  Look at these three key numbers:

  • .341 BABIP
  • 63.6% strand rate
  • 21.9% HR/FB

It’s a near lock that he improves on all three and, with the other numbers working in his favor, there should be plenty of optimism.  He was awful in his last few outings and now may be the best chance you have to capitalize on your league mates frustrations.  See if you can get him now, as there should be significantly better days ahead.

4) Frank FranciscoNew York MetsRelief Pitcher


Really?  Considering his struggles and the instability at the position, is he really a player you want to try and acquire?

Actually, the answer is yes.

Mets manager Terry Collins has come out and said that he wants to keep Francisco in the closer’s role, because he doesn’t want to disrupt the rest of the bullpen.  Obviously, if he blows his next save in spectacular fashion that could change, but for now his job is safe.

However, does your league mate believe Francisco is on the verge of coughing up the job?  That could lead to him giving him up at a discount, just so he gets something for him before his value becomes nil.  If his trade value is down and you are in need of saves, now is the perfect time to strike.

I am not about to say that Francisco is going to stay in the job all year long.  At this point, that would actually surprise me.  However, he is a closer now and the indication is that he is going to remain there.  That gives him value, especially if you can get him at a discount.

Make sure to check out some of Rotoprofessor‘s recent rankings:

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New York Mets: Can a "Fruit and Nuts" Franchise Still Compete in the NL East?

Earlier this week, during baseball’s Winter Meetings, super agent Scott Boras categorized the New York Mets as a team that is normally in the “steaks section,” but now find themselves in the “fruits and nuts category a lot.”

Any Mets fan will admit there are plenty of nuts running around the organization at the moment.

It’s far too late to claim that fans want a contender—they’re dying for one.

In the wake of Jose Reyes signing with the newly-christened Miami Marlins, the only thing the Mets can do is shop around in the bargain bin and find any way to keep butts in the seats while their better prospects develop.

General manager Sandy Alderson, completely unwilling (and rightfully so) to concede anything, including the upcoming 2012 season, hopes to build a long-term contender no later than 2014. And with prospects like Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia, Matt Harvey and Brandon Nimmo in the fold, that just might be possible.

Yes, they should trade David Wright, but that’s an article for another day.

But with the farm system still unable to bear Major League-ready fruit, can the Mets actually find a way to compete within the NL East—a division which is arguably the best in baseball?

After several days of inactivity, Alderson finally made a flurry of moves, trading Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez, and signing relievers Frank Francisco (two-years, $12 million) and Jon Rauch (one-year, $3.5 million).

Ramirez, Rauch and Francisco give manager Terry Collins plenty of arms to choose from in Spring Training.

Francisco, 32, went 1-4 with a 3.55 ERA and had 17 saves in 54 relief appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays last season. Rauch, 33, is a good match for the Mets, finishing 2011 5-4 with a 4.85 ERA in 53 relief appearances. He missed the remainder of the season after being sidelined September 4 with torn cartilage in his right knee. Ramirez, 30, went 3-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 66 relief appearances for the San Francisco Giants last season.

In adding Torres, Alderson took a page out of the Moneyball Handbook, hoping that the Torres of 2010 will reemerge. He hit just .221 with four home runs and a .312 OBP last season, but two seasons ago, Torres was a monster.

Although he produced a ho-hum slash line of .268/.343/.479, he was tied with the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista with a 6.8 WAR. Defensively, he posted a revised zone rating of 96 percent, first among centerfielders.

While Torres might be a slight upgrade, especially defensively, over Pagan, and the addition of three relievers gives Collins more flexibility to sort out the bullpen, Alderson didn’t add any actually wins to the Mets roster.

Once again, the Mets bullpen is going to be a trial-by-error system—everyone will have a chance to fill a role until they begin to show imperfections, at which time, hopefully, Collins will make a change.

Last season, the Mets bullpen ranked 15th in the NL in both BAA (.267) and ERA (4.33).

The Mets will enter 2012 with a team of retreads and returning players, like first baseman Ike Davis and starting pitcher Johan Santana. Unless Alderson puts the hammer down and trades a player like David Wright, the next few seasons will be highlighted by continual futility and failure.

Will the Philadelphia Phillies finally start to show their age? Will expectations become too much for the completely revamped Miami Marlins? The Atlanta Braves missed the playoffs only because of a nightmare September collapse; will they recover or enter a free fall not unlike the Mets’?

Heck, even the Washington Nationals, who are expected to break camp with stud Bryce Harper, have a brighter future than the Mets.

So what can Alderson, Collins and the Mets actually do?

For now…nothing.

If Alderson is unwilling to concede the season and start making serious trades, there isn’t much to be done. Yes, the Mets have reportedly been shopping young players like reliever Bobby Parnell and starting pitcher Jon Niese, but Alderson didn’t seem very willing to actually pull the trigger, and it’s unclear exactly what the market’s interest was.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Mets will make any aggressive moves between now and the start of Spring Training, but it seems that, once again, Mets fans will be looking at another season of disappointment.

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Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox: Which AL East Team Has the Best Bullpen?

After the Toronto Blue Jays acquired power arm Frank Francisco from the Texas Rangers, it became a possibility that the Jays could run well into the season with a 13-man pitching staff.

Even though running eight relievers seems like the perfect insurance to a very young rotation, it begs one question: Even though there’s quantity, do the Jays have quality in their ‘pen?

Well, I thought, what better way to answer that question than to compare the Jays’ relief corps to those of their major competitors in the AL East, and those who are also thought to have solid relievers—the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox?

Answering the question won’t have the best answer due to the fact that injuries, slow starts, etc. will all have an effect on the bullpen’s seasons, but looking deep into the statistics should help us understand who is projected to have the stronger bullpen based on last season’s production from all the pitchers who are part of the three teams.


Boston Red Sox

Projected Bullpen: Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Tim Wakefield

Projected Bullpen Stat Line: 3.94 ERA, .245 BAA, 1.17 WHIP

The Red Sox bullpen can be considered a hit or miss type of relief team. If the team reaches even half its potential, their overall ERA will be much below 3.00, while teams will struggle to hit against them. However, if all their relievers play like last season or close to it, the above stat line is quite realistic.

Jonathan Papelbon will most likely start the season as closer, but if he falters, he will have two other pitchers just as capable in Bobby Jenks and Daniel Bard waiting.

The Sox will also have trouble with left-handed batting, as all their relievers—with the exception of Bard—had ERAs above 4.80 when pitching against lefties last season. They should specialize against righties.


New York Yankees

Projected Bullpen: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Robertson, Pedro Feliciano

Projected Bullpen Stat Line: 3.00 ERA, .226 BAA, 1.21 WHIP

The Yankees most likely have the deepest pitching staff in baseball—in terms of the back end of it. Mariano Rivera will surely have yet another stellar season, while Rafael Soriano is another premier closer who will set up for the veteran. David Robertson is a fine complement to that fantastic duo.

However, when you look at the long-relieving options for the Yankees, well, there really aren’t any. Joba Chamberlain can be considered a long reliever, but his stamina has been questionable of late and can’t be fully relied on. Pedro Feliciano and Boone Logan are better suited as middle or late relief than long too.

The question remains, what happens when A.J. Burnett or Phil Hughes has his trademark “off night?” It’s a question the Yankees are hoping to answer with Chamberlain and perhaps some of their younger arms still in the minors, like Ivan Nova.

The Yankees should be fine when batting against lefties, as even though Soriano’s and Rivera’s strong sides are against righties, their BAAs vs. lefties are still quite respectable. Logan and Feliciano should also help shut down left-handed batting.


Toronto Blue Jays

Projected Bullpen: Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor, Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Jesse Carlson, Casey Janssen, David Purcey

Projected Bullpen Stat Line: 3.70 ERA, .246 BAA, 1.30 WHIP

The Blue Jays don’t really have an electric-type arm like the Yanks and Sox have, but they do have something the other two don’t—reliability at both ends of the staff and on both sides of the ball. They will rely on Casey Janssen and Shawn Camp for long relief, while the rest will combine to form a solid middle and late relief team.

Toronto will also have some versatility in their relief team. Relievers Camp, Janssen, David Purcey and Jon Rauch will be able to pitch at both ends of the bullpen, while they will also specialize in certain roles.

Rauch may close for the team, while Carlson and Purcey will be relied on to shut down left-handed batting. Camp should be one of John Farrell’s go-to relievers, given his proven reliability.

Something the Jays don’t have is a sure-fire closer. They will have a bevy of relievers competing for the job, most notably Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco. Others who will battle for the position include Jason Frasor and former All-Star Chad Cordero. However, they do have quantity at the position, so if anyone falters, there will always be a fallback option.



If you match up all the ‘pens against each other, the Yankees are the clear-cut winners based on stats. They have the best closer in the game, probably the best setup man in the game and one of the better left-handed specialists as well. Nonetheless, their long relief will remain a question, simply because of the known inconsistency their rotation will inevitably face.

The Red Sox are also strong at the closing position but will face some real struggles with left-handed batting. No one in their bullpen is really a specialist in terms of lefties. Also, despite completely cleaning the house of relievers in the free market this winter, the Red Sox still don’t have a reliable long relief option either. Most of their better relievers are suited for setup/closing roles.

The Jays, I think anyway, have the best bullpen of the three. Despite not having a sure-fire closer, they do have numerous reliable options at the position to fill in for the dominance the Sox and Yankees have at the position. The Jays also have numerous long relief options, which should pay dividends for a young rotation. The Jays are also strong on both sides of the plate, where the other two are only dominant on one side.

The Jays are committing a lot of money to their relief corps this season, and it should pay off well, as Toronto not only has quantity but has quantity too. This should put them a step ahead in terms of pitching vs. the Red Sox and Yankees.

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Toronto Blue Jays Add Potential Closer at the Expense of Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli was a member of the Blue Jays just long enough for most of the team’s writers and fans to get familiar with his capabilities and salary situation and come to a conclusion as to where he would fit in with the club. Napoli seemed to fit as the team’s primary DH, which caused a chain effect with the rest of the position players.

All that needs to be revisited now though as Napoli has already been spun to the Texas Rangers for reliever, and potential closer, Frank Francisco. He is the latest new arm to a bullpen that will be stocked with new faces come Opening Day. The Jays have already added Carlos Villanueva, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Chad Cordero this offseason and figure to welcome back Jason Frasor and David Purcey as well. Francisco is the fifth arm added and he also figures to be the best of the bunch as well.

Francisco has been about as consistent as you could reasonably expect from a relief pitcher over the last four seasons. He’s made no less 51 appearances in any of those four seasons and has been particularly effective the last three seasons. Since 2008 he’s struck out at least 10.25 batters per nine innings and has put FIPs of 3.18, 3.34 and 3.12 in those three seasons.

After struggling with walks early in his career he’s only given up 2.74 and 3.08 free passes per nine innings the last two years. The end result has seen his ERA range from 3.13 to 3.83 to 3.76 the last three years. He also brings along the reputation of being someone who can handle closing duties (always up for debate is how overrated that sort of thing is) having saved 25 games in 29 chances back in 2009.

Francisco also figures to be cheaper than Napoli by a couple million dollars or so. Although, that’s not a big deal when you figure Napoli was part of a deal that saved the Jays $70 million in future payroll obligations and the simple fact that Napoli projected to provide more value than Francisco, thus justifying the increased cost of employment.

Alex Anthopoulos did address the Jays’ seeming abundance of relief help added this offseason by stating that he wants a deep and veteran bullpen to help ease the burden on the young starting rotation. Indeed, the Jays rotation as currently constituted won’t send anyone to the mound over the age of 26. It’s tough to argue with that logic but it’s also tough not to wonder if the bullpen really needed another arm and if the team would’ve been better off keeping Napoli.

The loss of Napoli also changes the outlook of the Jays lineup and roster construction. Just two days ago he looked to be the primary option at DH with Adam Lind at first and either Jose Bautista at third and Juan Rivera in left or Bautista in right and Edwin Encarnacion at third.

That’s still probably the case and Bautista is probably slightly better off in right than third. But now if Encarnacion is going to play third they have a hole at DH. The only good thing about a hole at DH is that finding a DH is easier than finding a third baseman to push Encarnacion back to DH where he’d probably be better off in a perfect world because his defense is lacking.

Again, as mentioned here, the Jays might be dead set on keeping Encarnacion away from playing third. If that is the case, barring another trade, their only option at third is Bautista. This would allow the Jays to see what Encarnacion can do with the bat while keeping him away from what he clearly cannot do, play something resembling average defense. And finding a corner outfielder isn’t as easy as finding a DH but it’s still easier than landing a third baseman in late January/early February.

The Jays’ options for another outfielder were covered a few days ago here, but now that they suddenly might need a DH let’s take a look at some of the remaining free-agent options. The biggest name left on the market, at any position, is Vlad Guerrero who spent last season with the Texas Rangers. Vlad enjoyed a nice bounce-back season with the Rangers hitting .300 with a 5.4 percent walk rate, .196 isolated power and 29 homers in 643 plate appearances. By keeping him off the field he was healthy enough to play in 152 games, his highest total since 2006.

He, unlike Napoli or even Encarnacion, would be strictly a DH at this point in his career. He’ll also be 36 but he’s been a very consistent hitter and his production last year showed that he can’t be written off just yet as a productive hitter. Vlad has never hit below .295 going all the way back to 1997 and has had an ISO lower than 2010’s .196 just once in that same time. But there’s always a first, or second, time for everything and if his average and power slip he doesn’t offer much else to provide value. He hasn’t walked much the last two seasons posting on-base percentages of .334 and .345 despite being, basically, a .300 hitter the last two years.

The Jays could also use their low risk, high reward approach to bullpen building and take a flyer on Hank Blalock. He was last seen in 2010 getting just 69 trips to the plate for the Tampa Bay Rays and putting together a .297 wOBA. That’s nothing to get excited about but from 2007-2009 in just over 1,000 plate appearances he had a .230 ISO and 47 homers to go with a .262 batting average and a .313 OBP. It’s been a while since Blalock was both productive and playing every day but with a low financial commitment he’d be worth a look.

The bottom line is that the loss of Napoli for Francisco stings, but if Napoli was primarily going to DH and give up time at first to Adam Lind and time at catcher to J.P. Arencibia, then replacing him won’t be all that hard. They could commit some money to Vlad or go bargain shopping for Blalock or even Willy Aybar for that matter. The decision on Bautista’s spot in the field still dictates how they round out the roster but there are still options at both DH and the outfield worth exploring.

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Where’d That Come From? Frank Francisco Trade Makes More Sense Than it Seems

First reported by Ken Rosenthal, the Toronto Blue Jays traded the recently-acquired Mike Napoli to the Texas Rangers in exchange for reliever Frank Francisco and cash considerations.

Napoli was acquired just a few days ago in the blockbuster that saw long-tenured Blue Jay Vernon Wells shipped to the Los Angeles Angels. Juan Rivera was also sent to the Jays in that swap.

Napoli was thought to be a perfect fit for Toronto, who needed help at catcher, first base and designated hitterthree positions that Napoli has experience at, which makes this trade surprising.

What makes the deal even more surprising is that Francisco is yet another right-handed reliever added to a right-heavy pitching staff. Both players have arbitration hearings set in March, after both of them had struggles in reaching a new deal with their former clubs, the Angels and Rangers.

Francisco all around seems to be a solid addition to what was once a weak bullpen. However, it also jeopardizes fellow reliever Jason Frasor’s future with the club. Frasor and Francisco are similar pitcherspower-throwing, strikeout pitchersso the question arises: Why have two of the same thing?

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos earlier today responded by saying he likes to have a very deep bullpen, meaning the Jays could play into the early part of the season with a 13-man pitching staff.

However, there may be some logic to the deal (with Anthopoulos, there usually always is). Despite being a right-handed reliever,  Francisco still brings a bevy of options for the Jays:

left-handed batters have only hit .213 on Francisco during his career, compared to the .234 right-handed batters have

Francisco also has closing experience and will most definitely be one of the four or five names competing for the closer’s job come spring training

As Jonah Keri noted, Francisco’s xFIPs of the last three seasons are quite impressive and are actually better than some of the league’s better closers3.34, 3.53, 3.31.

Clearing some salary could have been a motive for Anthopoulos in this deal too. Napoli’s and Francisco’s arbitration figures could be up to $3 million apart. The Jays also receive almost a million in hard cash from the Rangers, so the writing’s on the wall there too.

Toronto also needed another power bat for the upcoming season, and Napoli and Rivera filled those needs. However, with one of them gone, we are virtually in the same position as we were when we had Wells (in terms of production and power).

This also suggests that Anthopoulos may not be finished before spring training opens (which is approaching fast), and we could see another deal to land the Jays another veteran bat.

In another aspect of the deal, it also allows the Jays to play their younger players to see what they can do. In this view of the trade, one would suggest that Rivera could be traded as well. Anyway, I may have overanalyzed this deal to this point, but that’s what Toronto sports fanatics do, don’t we?

Email me your opinions: alex.mamalis@ymail.com

I’m on Twitter, join the fun! @degratenhlsport

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Players The Toronto Blue Jays Should Target Through Free Agency Or Trade

So Alex Anthopoulos has found a manager in John Farrell.

Now he has to continue upgrading his team through trades and free agency.

The first thing to note is that it is highly unlikely Anthopoulos signs a Type A free agent. This is because his first-round pick is not protected, and that is what he would have to give up to sign them.

So Manny Ramirez is out of the question.

The second thing is that Anthopoulos has stated he is willing to go after Type A free agents if the price is right. I understand this, but it is highly unlikely that will happen.

Type A free agents almost always get big money. If they are not worth a lot of money, then teams would not want to give up the draft pick, either.

As a result, I see them targeting players that are not on the Type A free-agent list.

The needs of this team are not as great as some would perceive.

One upgrade needed would be catcher. This is because John Buck has already signed with the Florida Marlins (who snubbed Toronto in the Dan Uggla trade), and so we need a starting catcher.

We have a quality backup in Jose Molina, so some say we should just get JP Arencibia to start. But it is quite risky to throw a stud prospect into the fire immediately.

Also, Anthopoulos has stated that catcher and shortstop are the two most important positions. As a result, expect Anthopoulos to address the catcher position.

Another area he needs to address is the bullpen. This is the place the Blue Jays are losing the most players from.

Jason Frasor, Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg need to be replaced. That is going to cost a lot of money.

Then there is the infield. The Blue Jays need to address the first base position.

Lyle Overbay is most likely not coming back, so they need a starter there. Brett Wallace, who was supposed to be his heir, was dealt for Anthony Gose.

They also need a third baseman, as they released last year’s starter in Edwin Encarnacion.

Another option to fill third base is to get a second baseman and move Aaron Hill to the hot corner. I would not recommend it, as Hill has been outstanding at second base.

He can also get an outfielder and put Bautista at third base, but that seems a bad idea as well because Bautista is excellent in right field.

Also Anthopoulos loves to stockpile starting pitchers. We saw this in the draft, as he kept picking pitcher after pitcher in the first two rounds, picking five in all.

So these are the needs. Now let’s get to the players he should target.

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Texas Rangers’ Ron Washington: Insane Or Brilliant?

The Rangers seem to have the AL West all but locked up. They have by far the largest lead in any division in baseball, yet some things just don’t seem right at the moment.

With Ian Kinsler and Joaquin Arias on the disabled list, the Rangers are a little thin at second base. Ron Washington seemed to think that we may need a bit more help in that area so Christian Guzman was introduced as a Ranger.

Nice acquisition, right? Starting shortstop for the Washington Nationals since 2005, averaged .328 and .316 in 2007 and 2008 respectively! That’s actually pretty impressive!

So why do I get this sinking feeling when I watch him play?

Well, lets review how his play has been on the Rangers. Since becoming a Ranger, Guzman has had numerous fielding errors, is hitting .103, and is below average in speed. This shows the signs of a slumping player, not a bad player. But that makes me wonder even more.

Washington in the past has given rest to slumping players. Even Vladimir Guerrero has been getting more days off than usual lately. So why hasn’t Andres Blanco started more at 2B?

Andres Blanco has at times this season made my jaw drop on defense. He has an accurate arm and his fielding range is absurd. He is very quick and is hitting .230 on the season as a Ranger. If not for the batting, which although isn’t great it is much better than .103, then just for the defense! 

It is tiring seeing Guzman giving up on turning two after catching the ball at second base, and throwing from his bum because he toppled over while trying to field the ball, and missing ground balls in the ninth to let the Yankees tie the game.

Bottom line is that you play to your hot hand. Guzman needs to sit for a while and adjust to the Texas heat.

Another thing I feel Ron Washington is missing the mark on is bullpen management. Although Mike Maddux can be somewhat blamed here, Ron is making the plan and makes the final decisions.

Whats with Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver’s rather short outings lately? Are the Rangers really that anxious to pitch Frank Francisco? Again, you have to play to your hot hand, not give the ball to 6 different pitchers in one game.

Frank Francisco (3.86) is just having a bad year to say the least. So why is he still the setup man? Is it because we pay him so much, we just feel like we have to play him? I’m not sure, but I know Alexi Ogando (1.13) has been doing much better and would serve as a good setup guy to Neftali Feliz.

Maybe Ron is concerned with giving lower paying players bigger roles because they may want more money later, thinking they are a much bigger part of the team. This kind of thinking won’t win ballgames, or championships. I rather doubt Ron is thinking this way, but it just seems that maybe he is being stubborn, keeping players he has had in places for a while, afraid to move them around.

I really do like Ron Washington, though. I may disagree with some things he does, but overall it’s really good that he is the manager of the Rangers. Let’s review some of the things he is doing that I like.

With enough cushion to rest some guys, a lot of Rangers are seeming to get injured at the moment. Gosh it sure is handy that they waited to get hurt till now right? Or maybe its just good planning.

Ian Kinsler shows up at the clubhouse a little sore. Why send him out and keep beating him up with such a big lead in the division? We are getting to the back end of the season and Ron is sending players with the tiniest dings to the DL to get some rest. I love this kind of playoff preparation. It’s very smart, as long as Ian Kinsler, Joaquin Arias, Matt Treanor, Derek Holland, and Dustin Nippert don’t mind letting their season stats slip a little that is.

So I was unable to decide whether he is a crazy man or a genius. Perhaps both. Perhaps neither. There is only one thing for certain: The suicide rate in Arlington will skyrocket if the Rangers let this chance slip away, and Ron Washington will likely be the scapegoat if they do.

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