Frank Francisco Rumors
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
The AL East winner has had at least 95 wins every year since 2000 and the Blue Jays haven't had more than 87 wins during that stretch. Toronto finished fourth in the American League East with an 81-81 record this year, so they have some improving and developing to do before they make their first playoff appearance since 1993.
GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the 2011 season this afternoon. Here are some highlights, from video on the Blue Jays' site:
- Anthopoulos declined to discuss his contract in detail, but said he's happy in Toronto. "I expect to be here as long as they want me here," he said.
- Anthopoulos likes the humility and drive to improve that first-year manager John Farrell showed this season. To see how Farrell and other new managers did in 2011, click here.
- The Blue Jays haven't decided how they'll approach Edwin Encarnacion ($3.5MM option, $500K buyout) and Frank Francisco (free agent) after the season. I predicted this month that they'll pick up Encarnacion's option.
- Kelly Johnson, who hits free agency in a month, did a "nice job" and is a possibility for the Blue Jays in 2012. The Blue Jays will reach out to his representatives this month.
- The Blue Jays would like to improve their rotation, but won't likely be shopping for back-of-the-rotation types.
- Anthopoulos says the Rays are arguably the best-run organization in sports and says they do "everything right."
- Anthopoulos suggested that the Blue Jays don't have the internal pitching depth to improve the bullpen as much as they hope to, so expect him to acquire relievers via trades or free agent signings.
Colby Rasmus is making his Blue Jays debut in Toronto, where he’s batting second and starting in center field tonight. Here’s the latest on a Blue Jays team that could make another move or two before Sunday afternoon...
- Though the Blue Jays have said they're likely done making deals, other teams believe they may still trade Jon Rauch and/or Frank Francisco, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
- The Diamondbacks, who had interest in some of the relievers the Blue Jays traded, aren't willing to mortgage the future for middle relief, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor and Marc Rzepczynski were dealt yesterday.
- Rasmus' father, Tony, says Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pushed his son out of town. “Tony needed pitching and wanted to force the GM into making a trade, so he belittled Colby to the fans,” the elder Rasmus told Bob Eilliott of the Toronto Sun.
- One MLB executive told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the only thing he's sure of is that Toronto GM "Alex Anthopoulos is the smartest dude in the game." Rosenthal warns his readers that forming snap judgments about trades is dangerous, but most of his sources like the deal for the Blue Jays.
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun previews the Orioles' Opening Day roster and checks in on some 2010 Orioles who have since joined other organizations.
- Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas asks whether the Rangers made a mistake when they traded Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli. Rangers GM Jon Daniels says Francisco was "very good" out of the bullpen when healthy, but notes that Francisco isn't completely healthy at the moment. The right-hander is set to visit Dr. James Andrews.
- The Indians are almost ready to announce their starting rotation, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Meanwhile, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer says the Indians didn't draft well enough from 2004-07.
Seven years ago today, the Yankees signed Eduardo Nunez as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Now 23, Nunez is in the mix to be New York's utility infielder in 2011 after hitting .280/.321/.360 with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in his brief big league debut last season (53 PA).
Here are some more notes that have to do with the Yanks and their fellow AL East clubs...
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post reports that the Yankees "have told their scouts to bear down on several teams they think could have starters available" in a trade this summer. The teams they are targeting include the Braves, Angels, A's, White Sox, and Cardinals according to Sherman.
- Jayson Werth told SI.com's Jon Heyman that he had a "great" meeting with the Red Sox earlier this offseason, after which he figured they would offer six years (Twitter link). They only offered five, so he ended up with the Nationals.
- Carl Pavano spoke to Kelsie Smith of The Pioneer Press about being pursued by the Yankees this offseason. "I don't think [the past] would be a hindrance, but there would have definitely been obstacles," said Pavano. "I'm not naïve enough to think that there wouldn't have been things I would have had to overcome, especially the trust of the fans and maybe some of the guys that were there. That's reality."
- Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star notes (on Twitter) that four of the Blue Jays' ten highest paid players are former closers: Jason Frasor, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Octavio Dotel.
- When asked about the payroll disparity between his Rays and other teams in the division, Joe Maddon told Ken Davidoff of Newsday that he's "never seen a dollar bill throw a strike, or hit a homer, or whatever." (Twitter link)
Francisco joined the Jays just last Tuesday after being acquired from Texas in exchange for Mike Napoli. The right-hander submitted a $4.88MM arb number to the Rangers, who countered with a $3.5MM offer. This was Francisco's last year of arbitration eligibility, and he is a free agent next winter.
Francisco moved into a setup role in the Rangers bullpen last season and delivered a strong season (3.76 ERA, 10.3 K/9 rate, 3.33 K/BB ratio) for the American League champs. Francisco lost the closer's job to Neftali Feliz in Texas, but he is expected to compete with Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel for game-finishing duties with the Jays.
According to the MLBTR ArbTracker, Jose Bautista is the only arb-eligible Toronto player who has yet to sign a 2011 contract. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith looked at the unique nature of Bautista's arbitration case last fall.
San Diego's relievers combined to strike out more than a batter per inning over the course of the 2010 season, while limiting hits, walks and homers. Manager Bud Black saw five of his relievers appear in 30 or more games and emerge with ERAs under 2.00 at the end of the season and the Padres' NL West rivals weren't the only ones to notice.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he'd like to have a deep bullpen in 2011, like the Padres did last year. He says he's happy to keep more relievers than usual on his roster this year and that the acquisition of Frank Francisco doesn't mean a trade is imminent. The Blue Jays' plans for their relievers haven't changed.
"No impact at all," Anthopoulos said yesterday on a conference call to announce the acquisition of Francisco from the Rangers. "They're all quality relievers and we love having depth in the bullpen one through seven."
Or maybe one through eight. The Blue Jays have discussed the possibility of opening the season with an eight-man bullpen to accomodate their arms and provide manager John Farrell with a variety of options. Though the Jays could open the year with an extra arm in the 'pen, Anthopoulos said a traditional seven-man ensemble is more likely at this point. The Blue Jays' rotation is relatively young and inexperienced, so the team's front office would like to support starters like Brett Cecil and, possibly, Kyle Drabek with steady relief pitching.
"It's certainly part of it," Anthopoulos said. "We don't want to overtax our young starters."
The Blue Jays don't want to overtax their relievers, either. Anthopoulos says there can be a ripple effect when teams have deep bullpens. If every reliever is capable of performing in meaningful situations, no pitcher gets overused. But Anthopoulos has no illusions; even qualified, well-rested relievers struggle and the 2011 Blue Jays won't be any different.
"We all know that they will get hurt," he said. "Some of them won't perform. They'll have bad months."
Take Jason Frasor (pictured), one of the holdovers in the team's new-look bullpen. He walked nearly a batter per inning in April, 2010 and posted an 8.38 ERA through the season’s first month, but recovered from his turbulent start and put together a fine year. He'll join Francisco and free agent signings Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel, the relievers Anthopoulos expects to compete for the Jays' closing job.
Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen and Carlos Villanueva are also right-handed relievers under team control for $1MM-plus in 2011, so the Blue Jays have a surplus of big league arms and could hear from pitching-starved teams before the season begins.
The Jays have seven established right-handed relievers, but Toronto's left-handers have considerably less experience. David Purcey, an out-of-options 28-year-old, was reasonably effective in 2010. He's a leading candidate to make the club, though his walk rate and fly ball rate have been high throughout his brief MLB career. Jo-Jo Reyes is also out of options, but he has made just 11 relief appearances as a pro. Jesse Carlson, who was a mainstay in 2009, could also crack the team's roster.
While their AL East rivals to the south, the Rays, had to lower payroll this offseason and rebuild their bullpen on a budget, Anthopoulos reaffirmed that he has the flexibility to ask for more money if necessary. The Blue Jays can continue spending on their bullpen, even as their young starters become more expensive.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
Hopefully Mike Napoli's suitcase is still packed. Just four days after acquiring the catcher/first baseman from the Angels, the Blue Jays have sent him back to the AL West. Napoli is heading to the Rangers for Frank Francisco and cash, the teams announced.
As Rosenthal points out, Napoli will likely spell Yorvit Torrealba and Matt Treanor behind the plate and see playing time at first base. This likely means the Rangers don't have room for free agent slugger Vladimir Guerrero.
Napoli hit 26 home runs last year, reaching the 20-homer plateau for the third consecutive season. He hit .238/.316/.468 overall, with a career-high 137 strikeouts. The right-handed hitter has a .931 OPS against southpaws in his career, so he is a potential complement to Chris Davis and Mitch Moreland, two left-handed hitting first basemen who hit righties but struggle against lefties.
The Blue Jays acquired Napoli from the Angels in the deal that sent Vernon Wells to Anaheim. J.P. Arencibia and Jose Molina figure to catch regularly for the Blue Jays now that Napoli is headed to the Lone Star State.
In an odd twist, Francisco joins the same bullpen as Jason Frasor, the only other Type A free agent to accept his team's offer of arbitration this offseason. New additions Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel join Frasor and Francisco in Alex Anthopoulos' remade bullpen.
Francisco, 31, posted a 3.76 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 52 2/3 innings for the Rangers last year. He saved 25 games in 2009 before relinquishing the closer's job to rookie Neftali Feliz in 2010.
As MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows, the midpoint for Francisco is $4.19MM and the midpoint for Napoli is $5.7MM, so the Rangers would have been taking on payroll even if they did not send cash to Toronto.
Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit arbitration figures. Let's keep track of those figures here, with the latest updates on top. You can track all of the players that avoided arbitration today here.
- MLB.com's Jane Lee tweets that Craig Breslow filed for $1.55MM, but the Athletics countered with $1.15MM.
- Zachary Levine of The Houston Chronicle has some figures for the Astros. Wandy Rodriguez filed for $10.25MM, Hunter Pence for $6.9MM. The team countered with $8MM and $5.15MM, respectively.
- Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star tweets that Billy Butler filed for $4.3MM while the Royals countered with $3.4MM.
- Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Javier Lopez filed for $2.875MM and Andres Torres for $2.6MM (Twitter link). The Giants countered with $2MM and $1.8MM, respectively.
- John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Johnny Cueto filed for $3.9MM, but the Reds countered with $3MM. He adds that Edinson Volquez filed for $2MM, the team $1.3MM.
- Mike DiGiovanna of The Los Angeles Times tweets Jered Weaver filed for $8.8MM, but the Angels countered with $7.365MM. He adds that Mike Napoli filed for $6.1MM, the team for $5.3MM.
- Tom Haudricourt of The Journal Sentinal has the figures for some prominent Brewers (Twitter link). Rickie Weeks filed for $7.2MM, Shaun Marcum for $5MM, and Kameron Loe for $1.65MM. The team countered with $4.85MM, $3MM, and $1.055MM, respectively.
- MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets that James Loney filed for $5.25MM, and the Dodgers for $4.7MM.
- Gurnick adds that Hong-Chih Kuo filed for $3.075MM, the Dodgers countered with $2.55MM (on Twitter).
- Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun has the skinny on two of the Orioles' key players (Twitter link). Luke Scott filed for $6.85MM and Jeremy Guthrie for $6.5MM. The team countered with $5.7MM and $5MM, respectively.
- Joe Christensen of The Star Tribune reports that Delmon Young filed for $6.25MM, the Twins $4.65MM (on Twitter).
- Christensen also reports that Francisco Liriano filed for $5MM and the Twins $3.6MM (on Twitter).
- Christensen adds that Kevin Slowey filed for $3.1MM, the Twins $2.3MM (on Twitter).
- Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that R.A. Dickey filed for $4.7MM, the Mets $3.35MM.
- Andy McCullough of The Star Ledger reports that Angel Pagan filed for $4.2MM, and the Mets for a little over $3.06MM (on Twitter).
- SI.com's Jon Heyman tweets that Josh Hamilton filed for $12MM, the Rangers $8.7MM.
- Anthony Andro of The Star Telgram reports that Darren O'Day filed for $1.4MM and the Rangers for $1.05MM (Twitter links).
- Frank Francisco filed for $4.875MM, the Rangers $3.5MM according to Andro.
- Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press tweets that Jose Bautista filed for $10.5MM, the Blue Jays $7.6MM. Michael Vlessides nailed both figures when he spoke to MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith back in October.
- MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm tweets that Jason Frasor filed for $3.725MM, the Blue Jays $3.25MM.
Links for Saturday evening...
- Curious about how all the recent free agent activity has impacted the 2011 draft order? Check out the updated order here.
- Right-hander Radhames Liz has signed with the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization according to the Yahoo! Sports transactions log. MLBTR has confirmed the signing. The Padres released Liz earlier this week.
- MLB.com's Peter Gammons says the Rangers thought they'd be able to acquire Robinson Chirinos from the Cubs, then package him with Derek Holland, Engel Beltre, and Frank Francisco to get Matt Garza from the Rays. Texas would have kicked in some money to offset Francisco's salary.
- "We're not giving away the farm to try and win in one year," said Cubs GM Jim Hendry when asked about the Garza deal, according to Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Garza is still under team control through 2013.
- It appears that the Nationals will have a smaller payroll than last year, according to Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com.
- Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports applauds the Rockies for keeping their nucleus together. Earlier this week Colorado agreed to terms with Carlos Gonzalez on a contract extension.
- The Orioles' may have trouble finding an undervalued lefty reliever on a one-year deal, writes Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.
- Joe Torre is in talks to become the next executive vice president of operations for MLB, according to Teri Thompson and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Torre stepped down as Dodgers manager towards the end of 2010 season.
- Matt Murton talked to Anna Katherine Clemmons of ESPN The Magazine about his time in Japan.