Frank Francisco Rumors

Blue Jays Sign Frank Francisco

The Blue Jays have avoided arbitration with Frank Francisco by agreeing on a one-year, $4MM contract, reports the team's official Twitter feed.  Francisco is represented by Praver/Shapiro.

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.


Blue Jays Aim For Bullpen Depth

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.

Frasor

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.


Blue Jays, Rangers Swap Napoli, Francisco

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.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the deal (on Twitter) and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (on Twitter) that the Rangers are sending less than $1MM to Toronto.

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.



Arbitration Figures: Tuesday

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.

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American League Free Agent Arbitration Decisions

23 American League free agents were offered arbitration on November 23rd.  Four of those - Joaquin Benoit, John Buck, Victor Martinez, and Javier Vazquez - already have new contract agreements.  Current free agent Kevin Gregg has chosen to decline.  The remaining 18 AL free agents offered arbitration will have their decisions noted here and in our tracker.


Frank Francisco Likely To Accept Arbitration

Free agent right-hander Frank Francisco is likely to accept the Rangers' offer of arbitration according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. As a Type-A free agent, a team would need to surrender a high draft pick to sign him, something many clubs won't be willing to do for a reliever.

To make matters worse, the 31-year-old Francisco missed the last month of the season (as well as Texas' playoff run) due to a strained rib cage. He's certainly a quality reliever, striking out 10.9 and walking just 2.9 batters unintentionally for every nine innings pitched over the last three seasons. He saved 25 games for the Rangers last season, but was usurped as closer by Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz early in 2010.

I examined Francisco's free agent stock late last month, noting that he could accept arbitration and receive a $4MM or so salary in 2011 (he earned $3.265MM in 2010). Earlier today we learned that the Rangers have explored the idea of signing a closer and moving Feliz into the rotation, a move Francisco could help facilitate.


American League Free Agent Arbitration Offers

10 American League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll group them in this post.  For a fantastic customizable chart with all 65 Type A/B free agents and their decisions in real-time, click here.


Odds & Ends: Dodgers, Boras, Francisco, Dunn

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Free Agent Stock Watch: Frank Francisco

Neftali Feliz is ready to close games in the World Series and is a strong candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but it's easy to forget that he didn't even start the season as the Rangers' closer. That job belonged to Frank Francisco, who saved 25 games in 29 chances last season. He blew the save in his first two opportunities of the season and sported a double digit ERA in late-April, putting the ninth inning in Feliz's hands.

Francisco is set to hit the free agent market for the first time in his career in a few weeks, so let's break down his stock…

The Good

  • After the rough start, Francisco was exceptionally strong as Feliz's setup man the rest of the way. After April 20th, he pitched to a 2.83 ERA with 56 strikeouts and just 13 unintentional walks in 47.2 innings.
  • He's dominant, striking out 200 batters over the last three seasons (10.9 K/9) walking just 54 unintentionally (2.94 BB/9).
  • As stated before, he has experience closing games, not mention familiarity with the setup role as well. Versatility is always a plus.

The Bad

  • Francisco finished the year on the disabled list due to a strained rib cage suffered in late August and hasn't been able to pitch in the playoffs. He also hit the disabled list twice in 2009 due to a shoulder strain, plus once more with a bout with walking pneumonia.
  • He can be prone to the long ball, averaging one homer for just a touch over every nine innings pitched over the last three seasons. The Ballpark in Arlington has exacerbated that problem, his HR/9 on the road since 2008 is a much more managable 0.68.
  • Francisco is projected to be a Type-A free agent, so if the Rangers offer him arbitration, a team would have to surrender a high pick to sign him.

Verdict

Francisco's offseason is going to depend on whether or not the Rangers offer him arbitration. If they don't, his stock will be much higher because the stigma of forfeiting a high draft pick is gone. If they offer and he declines, he could find himself in a Juan Cruz circa 2008-2009 situation, where he's unemployed late into the offseason because no one feels he's worth giving up a pick. There's also a non-zero chance that Francisco would accept an arbitration offer, since an award would push him close to $4MM next year ($3.265MM salary in 2010). He might not be able to find that much money on the open market.

If Francisco does hit the market, perhaps his best course of action would be to take a one-year deal to serve as a non-contender's closer, building up his value so he could shoot for a multi-year guarantee next winter. He could also be a nice fallback option for a team breaking in a young and/or inexperienced closer.