The Brewers acquired third baseman Juan Francisco from the Braves for minor league lefty reliever Tom Keeling, announced the teams. Additionally, the Brewers announced they've asked for waivers for the unconditional release of infielder Alex Gonzalez, while recalling second baseman Scooter Gennett and optioning Mike Fiers.
The Braves designated Francisco for assignment last Thursday to open a roster spot for Alex Wood. Francisco, 25, hit .237/.281/.420 in 320 plate appearances spanning 2012-13 for Atlanta. They had acquired him in an April 2012 trade with the Reds for reliever J.J. Hoover. Signed out of the Dominican Republic by Cincinnati in 2004, Francisco hit the prospect radar a few years later. Baseball America praised his arm and big raw power, questioning his aggressive approach at the plate. Francisco has played only third base in the Majors, and has played a handful of minor league games at the outfield corners and at first. In the short-term, though, GM Doug Melvin indicated on WSSP SportsRadio 1250 that Francisco will play first for the Brewers. Looking ahead, Francisco could be a viable replacement at the hot corner if the Brewers trade Aramis Ramirez this summer.
Keeling, 25, was drafted out of Oklahoma State by the Brewers in the 18th round in 2010. In 17 relief frames at Double-A this year, he has a 3.18 ERA, 10.1 K/9, and 5.3 BB/9, with one home run allowed. According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, "Keeling is a future bullpen piece who could get to Atlanta in 2014. He's hit 93 on the gun and occasionally uses a sideam delivery." Baseball America's J.J. Cooper paints a less rosy picture, tweeting, "Keeling is a fringy potential left-handed reliever with a below average fastball, OK slider."
Gonzalez, 36, signed a Major League deal worth $1.45MM in February. His release came after a .177/.203/.230 line in 118 plate appearances. A shortstop by trade, Gonzalez spent more time this year at the infield corners due to injuries to Corey Hart and Ramirez. Gonzalez had ACL surgery on his knee a year ago and battled a hamstring injury about a month ago. He lost playing time to Yuniesky Betancourt, who hit six home runs in April. The Brewers will be on the hook for Gonzalez's salary this year, less a pro-rated portion of the league minimum should he sign elsewhere.
Gennett, 23, was added to the Brewers' 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The 5'9" second baseman was ranked eighth among Brewers prospects by Baseball America prior to the season. He's a free-swinging line drive hitter with some surprising doubles power, wrote BA. They added that he has some rough edges to smooth out defensively, with an average arm and range. Gennett was hitting .297/.342/.376 in 221 plate appearances at Triple-A, and MLB.com's Adam McCalvy suggests he will push Rickie Weeks for the team's starting job at second base. At the least, some kind of platoon situation is possible, since Gennett bats left-handed and Weeks right-handed.