Francis, 31, pitched to a 3.72 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 77 1/3 innings across 12 starts for Cincinnati's Triple-A affiliate. He threw a nine-inning complete game shutout just last night. Given his solid performance in the minors and the demand for pitching, Francis could wind up signing a Major League contract and join a team's rotation in short order.
Wednesday night linkage..
- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said that it will be “miraculous” if he and the club come to terms on a new deal before Opening Day, writes Drew Davidson of the Star-Telegram.
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty told Tracy Ringolsby of FOXSports.com that while the club is making progress in multi-year contract talks with Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, nothing is imminent.
- Pitcher Jeff Francis has decided not to exercise his opt-out clause with the Reds, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Francis told the club that he’d be willing to go to Triple-A and start.
- The Rays are a thorn in the side for people those who contend that teams with limited budgets can’t win, writes Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. Tampa Bay is bumping up their payroll this year in an effort to spark attendance and revenue at Tropicana Field.
- After spending just one day in major league camp, it looks like Xavier Nady may have a chance to crack the Nationals’ roster, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. One spot is up for grabs between Nady and Jason Michaels, who has an out clause. The out clause may actually work against him as the player that the Nats choose will likely be sent to the minors once Michael Morse returns.
Lance Berkman told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that he thinks Bud Selig extorted new Astros owner Jim Crane into moving the team to the AL next season. "I think that's exactly what it was," said the former 'Stro. "To tell [Crane], 'We're going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch?' It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen."
Conspiracy theories aside, here's the latest from around the league…
- Jeff Francis can opt out of his minor league contract with the Reds on March 28th, but he told reporters (including John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer) that he will report to Triple-A if he doesn't make the team.
- MLB.com's Todd Zolecki hears that the Phillies have been looking for infield help lately, but no one seems to be a clear upgrade over Freddy Galvis. The Phightin's lost utility man Michael Martinez due to a broken bone in his foot today.
- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com wrote about all of the Athletics roster turnover. "You do know your time is limited here," said Brandon McCarthy. "You're not looking to put down roots."
- Joe Torre is waiting to see what happens with the Dodgers' ownership situation before returning to his old job at MLB, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Torre's group bowed out of the bidding because of the parking situation at Dodger Stadium.
- “I think that we as a franchise have a chance to go through sort of an evolutionary process to get us back to where we want to be,” said Mets GM Sandy Alderson to Andrew Keh of The New York Times in the wake of the team's recent financial moves. "From just an overall, organization standpoint, the landscape today is a lot brighter than it was two or three days ago, going into a potential three-week trial."
Let's continue our tour of the divisions with news from the NL Central…
- "The Reds’ handling of Aroldis Chapman is beginning to resemble Joba Chamberlain 2.0," writes Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan. Cincinnati is leaning towards using Chapman as a reliever this season but Passan argues that a pitcher with Chapman's potential should be given the chance to start and not worry about being shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen. Another note from the piece is that Chapman's velocity is down to the 92-95 mph range this spring, but Chapman has been pleased with his improved command and his new pitch, a splitter.
- Like Chapman, Jeff Francis has pitched well this spring but may not find a spot in the Reds rotation, prompting ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter) to consider Francis an "affordable alternative for teams in the John Lannan hunt." Francis signed a minor league deal with the Reds that contains an opt-out clause for March 28 that he could exercise if he doesn't think he'll find a job in Cincinnati. (In regards to Lannan, he could be off the trade market altogether given Chien-Ming Wang's hamstring injury today.)
- Nick Punto told reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that his top two offseason options were the Cardinals and Red Sox, but the Cards never made him a contract offer.
- Astros minor leaguer Angel Heredia has been suspended for 50 games following a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, reports The Associated Press. Heredia, a right-handed pitcher, played for Houston's Dominican Summer League team.
- Marshall will earn $4.5MM in 2013, $5.5MM in 2014, and $6.5MM in 2015 according to the AP (via John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer on Twitter). The southpaw can earn $1MM more per year if he closes for the Reds.
- “We’re obviously very excited about it,” said Reds GM Walt Jocketty to reporters (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon) about Marshall's deal. “When we made the trade for him, we made it intending to extend him. We felt confident we would do that. We wanted to approach it sooner than later.”
- The Pirates are still willing to work out a long-term extension with Andrew McCutchen, reports Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. McCutchen's camp is looking for something close to the $51MM given to Justin Upton while the club is coming in around $10MM below that.
- Jeff Francis told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that his final decision came between the Reds and Mets (Twitter link). The southpaw signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati last month.
- "We saw this coming years ago," said Pirates team president Frank Coonelly to Biertempfel when asked about the new draft spending restrictions. "We pushed money up to make sure we'd be taking advantage of opportunities we had last year and the year before."
A few stray items to pass along as the night winds down …
- Jeff Francis, who agreed to terms with the Reds on a minor league deal, can earn a base salary of $1.5MM if he makes the big league club, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The deal could be worth as much as $3.25MM with incentives and includes a March 28 opt-out clause, reports Crasnick (Twitter links).
- The Orioles remain interested in signing Yoenis Cespedes, according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, and will send a contingent to further scout the Cuban free agent in next week's Carribean Series in the Dominican Republic.
- Several general managers of small- and mid-market clubs are concerned the new labor agreement has furthered the divide between baseballs haves and have-nots, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com. In particular, the greater the number of teams that continue to shell out massive contracts, the more it encourages players on small-market clubs to refrain from signing extensions prior to free agency.
- Brad Lidge told the Phillies he wanted to stay in Philly, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN, but they apparently had no interest in retaining the right-hander. We heard earlier today that the Phils made a "lowball" offer to Lidge, who instead agreed to terms with the Nats.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes appeared on Tuesday's BP Podcast with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. You can download the mp3 or listen through iTunes.
Francis spent 2011 with the Royals, posting a 4.82 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 across 31 starts. His 183 innings of work was his highest total since 2007, the season before he suffered a shoulder injury which required surgery and caused him to miss the entire 2009 campaign.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) first reported that the two sides were nearing an agreement.
The Reds are close to signing free agent left-hander Jeff Francis to a minor league deal, a source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Last week it was reported that Francis was gaining interest from clubs, including the Reds, Mariners, Blue Jays, and Mets.
Francis spent 2011 with the Royals, posting a 4.82 ERA with 4.5 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 across 31 starts. His 183 innings of work last season was his highest total since 2007, the season prior to suffering a shoulder injury.
Friday night links..
- The Giants and the agent for Tim Lincecum have made significant progress since exchanging arbitration figures and both sides are confident that a resolution can be reached before a hearing would be scheduled, writes Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News.
- The Reds could look to land an infielder via trade, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
- It appears that talks between the Rockies and Red Sox regarding Marco Scutaro are dormant, but Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes that Boston's possible motivation for a move involving Scutaro would be to free up payroll. The club has reportedly expressed interest in White Sox starter Gavin Floyd and free agent outfielder Cody Ross, but neither move could be made unless a trade was made to offer budgetary relief according to a source.
- The Royals and Alex Gordon aren't particularly close on a deal but talks remain cordial and both sides want to get something done, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.
- Left-hander Jeff Francis is starting to attract more interest from teams in the market for a starting pitcher including the Mariners, Reds, Blue Jays, and Mets, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter links)
- Jesus Montero has dealt with his visa issue and is scheduled to travel from Florida to Seattle today for his Mariners physical, tweets Ken Davidoff of Newsday.
- Braves GM Frank Wren doesn't believe that his club has a major personnel need, writes Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wren also believes that this year's bullpen figures to be even deeper that last year's.
- Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post (via Twitter) is told that the Marlins have no interest in bringing Ivan Rodriguez back.
The Rockies offered Kevin Millwood a guaranteed $1MM prior to acquiring Kevin Slowey at the Winter Meetings, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. The Millwood offer included approximately $1MM more in incentives, but the 37-year-old righty sought $3MM guaranteed. With Slowey having agreed to a $2.75MM salary, Renck says the Rockies have little room in the budget for Millwood.
The Rockies have not ruled out Millwood, but their budget for veteran starting pitching depth doesn't seem to have much flexibility. It'd be surprising to see Millwood score $3MM guaranteed on the strength of nine big league starts, but he does have baseball's toughest agent in Scott Boras.
The Rockies are not currently pursuing a reunion with free agent lefty Jeff Francis, writes Renck. As of right now, all projected members of the Rockies' 2012 rotation are under 30.