Jeff Francis says he drew interest from "a bunch" of teams this offseason before agreeing to sign in Kansas City. His suitors reportedly included the Yankees and Rockies, but Francis chose the Royals instead of a team with a legitimate chance to contend in 2011.
As he explained on a conference call with reporters this afternoon, the left-hander chose the Royals because they offered him the opportunity to start and boast the game's most impressive collection of minor league prospects.
"From everything I've been able to learn, they certainly have the talent available," Francis said, comparing the current group of Royals prospects to the young Rockies players who made it to the 2007 World Series. "I've seen [a quick turnaround] happen before and I know it can be done."
Francis turned 30 over the weekend, but it wasn't long ago that he was a top prospect like current Royals lefties Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer. Though he doesn't consider himself much of a mentor yet, Francis knows what it's like to be a top prospect. As the 9th overall pick of the 2002 draft, Francis arrived in Colorado with lots of fanfare.
He leaves the Rockies – the only franchise he has ever known – for the American League. Francis says there could be an adjustment period and that he expects to succeed as long as he throws strikes, keeps hitters off-balance and stays healthy.
Injuries have been a problem throughout Francis' six-year big league career, but he says his left shoulder has been "feeling really good" and that he expects to be ready for Spring Training next month. The left-hander spent the entire 2009 season recovering from shoulder surgery and says he experienced some soreness again at the end of the 2010 campaign.