Jeff Francoeur Rumors

Heyman On Cueto, Uribe, Wilson, Brewers, Niese, Pirates, Gallardo

In his latest notes column, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com addressed a number of interesting deadline issues, starting with Reds starter Johnny Cueto. There have been suggestions over concern among buyers with the health of the star righty, but Heyman cites one scout from a team with interest who tells him that Cueto “looks fine.” As far as interest, Heyman pegs the Blue Jays, Royals, Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros as “the most likely and logical landing spots.”

Here are some other highlights from an info-packed piece (which you’ll want to read in full for even more notes):

  • The Braves are shopping the recently-acquired Juan Uribe, says Heyman, with the asking price of a “mid-range prospect” and full unloading of the approximately $3MM left on Uribe’s deal. Atlanta has had communications with at least the Mets, per the repor.
  • While the Orioles had been looking at adding a starter, Heyman reports that the team now may instead be prioritizing bats. Though the report doesn’t specify a position, we’ve heard in the past that Baltimore had interest in adding to its corner outfield mix.
  • Heyman writes that it’ll be interesting to see if Angels lefty C.J. Wilson becomes “even more available” now that Jerry Dipoto has resigned as the general manager. Per Heyman, Wilson was close with Dipoto, and the Wilson signing (five years, $77.5MM) was the one significant free agent pickup that Dipoto was actually responsible for. Angels owner Arte Moreno was behind the Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton signings, as many other reports have indicated over the years.
  • The Brewers are officially open for business and “may be considering a rather big sale,” one competing team exec tells Heyman. Interest in Jean Segura is down due to his poor play since an early 2013 breakout, but Gerardo Parra‘s big year has lots of clubs asking about him. Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Francisco Rodriguez are drawing interest, and the Brewers are open to packaging some of those players to improve the return.
  • The Jon Niese saga continues, as Heyman hears that the lefty now doesn’t seem particularly available, with one Mets person telling Heyman that Niese never really was. In other Mets news, Heyman hears that the team floated the idea of a Rafael Montero-for-Ben Zobrist swap when Montero was still healthy, but Montero, of course, has since been injured. The Mets have also talked about Uribe, but there are other names higher on their list.
  • While some have connected the Pirates to Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur, the Bucs might be aiming a bit higher, looking at Marlon Byrd of the Reds and Aramis Ramirez of the Brewers — both former Pirates. Heyman lists Ben Zobrist as a target for the Bucs as well. Earlier today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Bill Brink linked Pittsburgh to Zobrist, Cliff Pennington and Clint Barmes.
  • Yovani Gallardo could hit the trade market if the Rangers end up selling short-term pieces, and he’s not interested in springing for an early extension with his hometown team. Agent Bobby Witt has apparently told the Rangers that Gallardo is looking forward to testing the free agent market.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Pitching Market, O’s, Zunino, Inciarte, Astros

In his latest notes post for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal writes that while he opined on Saturday that pitching-hungry GMs should act sooner rather than later, he spoke to one exec yesterday that plans to wait until the trade deadline is nearly at hand, believing prices will drop late in the month. A second exec opined to Rosenthal, though, that the market for pitchers other than Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels will soften in the coming days. Rosenthal gets the sense that the trade market will “erupt” and action will be “frenetic,” but it might take awhile to reach that boiling point.

Some highlights from his column (though I’d recommend checking out the entire column)…

  • Orioles GM Dan Duquette is very serious about wanting to add a bat and has indeed expressed interest in Jay Bruce, Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez, but as Rosenthal notes, the Orioles may have the thinnest farm system in the game. Baseball America ranked Baltimore’s farm just 29th heading into the season, and that was before recent injuries to top arms Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. The team has some interesting names ready at the Triple-A level, but they also need to replace departing free agents Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and Wei-Yin Chen and will need to rely on the farm to fill some of those holes.
  • The Mariners aren’t just looking for a backup to Mike Zunino, Rosenthal hears, but a veteran option who would allow them to send Zunino back to Triple-A. Of course, he points out the fact that Seattle had such a player in the form of Welington Castillo but traded him to the D-Backs in the Mark Trumbo deal, only to watch Castillo out-hit Trumbo.
  • The Padres talked with the Diamondbacks about a trade that would’ve brought both Aaron Hill and Ender Inciarte to San Diego during Spring Training, and they’ve made a much more recent inquiry on Inciarte than that as well. The D-Backs are also receiving interest in David Peralta, Rosenthal writes, but Arizona isn’t motivated to trade either outfielder. Both are controlled through the 2020 season. Inciarte is a logical trade candidate for the Padres, in my mind, as a plus defender in center field and a left-handed bat — two things which the club currently lacks.
  • The Phillies may end up hanging on to Jeff Francoeur rather than trading him, according to Rosenthal. While a last-place team hanging onto a short-term veteran such as Francoeur seems counter-intuitive, he notes that the return on Francoeur would be extremely minimal, so the team may value his leadership over the warm body they’d receive for trading him. I agree that the return on Francoeur, who’s hitting .257/.288/.449 with suspect range in the corner outfield, wouldn’t be all that exciting.
  • The Astros do want to add a bat, but the team’s search for starting pitcher is a significantly greater priority, sources tell Rosenthal. GM Jeff Luhnow did tell MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart on Friday that getting a bat is a growing area of focus, however, and Chris Carter hasn’t played since Friday due to an ankle sprain. (He and other Houston first basemen have struggled at the plate even when healthy, as well.)

NL Central Notes: Pirates Targets, Soriano, Kirby

The Pirates would like to add a player or two prior the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. First base and right field are the two most obvious areas of need, where the Bucs could at the very least use platoon partners for Pedro Alvarez and Gregory Polanco. Biertempfel again mentions both Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur as potential fits, though Revere would seem more likely to supplant Polanco than platoon with him (both are left-handed, although Revere does actually hit lefties better than righties). In addition to those two offensive positions, the Pirates have been scouting big league starters and bullpen depth. Pittsburgh has “checked out” the Diamondbacks, writes Biertempfel, noting that both Addison Reed and Jeremy Hellickson are known to be available. (He does not, seemingly, indicate that there have been any actual discussions regarding those players, however.) Biertempfel also notes that the Pirates have previously had interest in Adam Lind, Scott Kazmir and Dan Haren, each of whom could be on the block.

Here’s more on the Pirates and their division…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington feels that his team is in a good position because it doesn’t have one glaring hole and a subsequent need to overpay in order to fill that hole, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, upgrading the back end of the rotation may come with the risk, if not the likelihood of losing Vance Worley or Jeff Locke. Brink feels that the team is unlikely to move either starter to the bullpen if an upgrade is acquired — he points out that the Bucs elected to trade Clayton Richard rather than place him in the ‘pen — and since both Worley and Locke are out of options, they’d have to be exposed to waivers.
  • The Cubs have promoted right-hander Rafael Soriano to Triple-A as he continues to ramp up and prepare to join the team in the second half, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Soriano debuted with Triple-A Iowa last night, allowing one hit but striking out the side. The strong performance continued a nice run through the team’s minor league system; Soriano has fired six scoreless innings with a 7-to-3 K/BB ratio between Double-A and Triple-A. Signed to a minor league deal with a $4MM base salary (he’ll receive the pro-rated version of that for time spent on the MLB roster) plus incentives, Soriano could be a factor in the Cubs’ bullpen in the near future.
  • Today is the deadline to sign picks from the 2015 draft, and while there’s been no reported agreement between the Brewers and No. 40 overall selection Nathan Kirby, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel hears (Twitter link) that the team still expects to sign the Virgina left-hander. Kirby was at one time a consideration to go in the top five to 10 picks, but a severe lat strain submarined his stock.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently penned an overview of the NL Central as we prepare to enter peak trade season. Miklasz runs down each club’s needs, as well as their most desirable trade chips (looking at prospects, among the buying clubs and Major Leaguers among the sellers).


Pirates Interested In Ben Revere, Jeff Francoeur

The Pirates are interested in trading for Phillies outfielder Ben Revere, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter).  The Bucs also have interest in Jeff Francoeur, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Pittsburgh is also looking into other bench and platoon bats in its search for depth at the deadline, Morosi tweets.

Revere struggled at the plate early in the season and at one point it appeared that he would be relegated to the bench once Cody Asche and Domonic Brown returned to full health.  However, he has turned things around as of late and his ongoing hitting streak – now at nine games – has elevated his slash line to .294/.335/.377.  The 27-year-old has also stolen 21 bases on the year and he could be a solid leadoff option for Pittsburgh while Josh Harrison is sidelined.

Revere was connected to both the Mariners and Angels this summer.  Recently, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported that in June the Phillies and Angels came close on a trade that would’ve sent Revere to Anaheim for right-hander Trevor Gott. The Phils thought the deal was done but the Halos “pulled out of the deal at the last minute and tried to redirect the Phillies toward a starting pitching prospect.”

Francoeur, who inked a minor league deal with Philly in November, will be a free agent after the 2015 season.  The 31-year-old has slashed .246/.278/.410 with six homers in 194 plate appearances this year.  Those numbers won’t get him to Cincinnati later this week, but that does mark an uptick from the last few years: between 2012 and 2014, the veteran hit just .222/.269/.346 for the Royals, Giants, and Padres.   The veteran has also had success against righties this year with a slash line of .269/.304/.481 across 115 plate appearances.  It wouldn’t take much for the Pirates to get Francoeur, Biertempfel tweets, and he suggests that a Double-A pitcher like Steven Brault could get the job done.

Harrison is set to miss seven weeks with a torn UCL in his thumb and, recently, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said that could lead to the Bucs being “aggressive with early opportunity to add” this month.  The Bucs have a capable replacement in Jung-Ho Kang taking over for Harrison at third base, but the loss of the versatile Kang leaves the Pirates with an underwhelming bench of Chris Stewart, Sean Rodriguez, Steve Lombardozzi, Gorkys Hernandez and Travis Ishikawa.


Added To The 40-Man Roster: Sunday

The rosters for Opening Day have been officially submitted this afternoon. Several minor league signees have won jobs with their clubs and earned 40-man roster spots. Here are today’s additions:

  • The Orioles will purchase catcher Ryan Lavarnway‘s contract on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The 25-man roster that the Orioles announced today included Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger at catcher, but not Lavarnway, who they had reassigned to the minors.
  • The Padres have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of catcher Wil Nieves. With Tim Federowicz out with a knee injury, Nieves will back up Derek Norris. As we noted when Nieves signed, his big-league salary will be $850K.
  • Ryan Madson has made the Royals‘ Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. Madson caps his comeback from multiple elbow injuries and his first appearance for Kansas City will be his first in the Majors since 2011.
  • The Nationals have announced on Twitter that second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Reed Johnson have made their Opening Day roster.
  • The Braves announced they have officially purchased the contracts of outfielders Eric Young, Jr. and Kelly Johnson, left-hander Eric Stults, and right-hander Cody Martin. The Braves cleared space on their 40-man roster by placing right-hander Arodys Vizcaino and outfielder Dian Toscano on the restricted list.
  • One name missing from the Braves‘ roster is Pedro Ciriaco, who was reported yesterday to have made the club. This is likely a procedural move, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter links), because the Braves placed Josh Outman on the 25-man roster instead of releasing him after the left-hander complained of shoulder tenderness. The move will also buy the Braves some time to look for an upgrade over Ciriaco, tweets Bowman.
  • The Phillies have announced outfielder Jeff Francoeur and infielder Andres Blanco have made the team. Francoeur is just one of four outfielders on Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster, so he could see time as Grady Sizemore‘s platoon partner in right field. The Phillies are now at their 40-man limit.
  • The Marlins have selected the contract of utility player Don Kelly, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Kelly earned his spot with solid Spring Training line of .270/.357/.324 in 42 plate appearances. Frisaro reports the 35-year-old will backup both the corner infield and outfield spots, as well as serving as the team’s emergency third catcher.

NL Notes: Francoeur, Russell, Ankiel

Jeff Francoeur believes his easygoing personality has helped keep his career going, Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes in a profile of the well-traveled outfielder. Last season, Francoeur’s teammates with Triple-A El Paso in the Padres’ system played an elaborate practical joke on Francoeur, then videotaped his reaction when he found out he’d been had. A Triple-A team ordinarily might not feel comfortable playing a trick on an accomplished big-league veteran, but Francoeur’s teammates knew he would take it well. Francoeur hit .289/.320/.450 in 487 plate appearances in El Paso and played ten games with the Padres. Now he’s in camp with the Phillies, trying to make it back to the big leagues with the seventh team of his career. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was surprised by the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade that sent him from Oakland to Chicago last summer, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. “I was a little shocked, and more confused than anything,” says Russell, who adds that he soon began to see a positive side of the trade. “The Cubs wanted me, and they got me. I look at it as a new opportunity.” Lee notes that Russell probably would have had a more straightforward path to the big leagues if he were still with the Athletics. He’s talented enough, though, that that might not matter — if he continues hitting this season, the Cubs will surely find a place for him.
  • Former big-league pitcher and outfielder Rick Ankiel is trying to help Nationals players as the teams new life skills coordinator, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I’m really just a resource for these guys or somebody to lean on for whatever they may need — whether it’s something off the field or something on the field,” Ankiel says. “I’ve been through it. I’ve got a lot of tools and mechanisms to pass down to these guys.” Ankiel, who signed out of high school and has no college experience, emphasizes that he’s not a doctor,  just a former player who’s had an unusual and varied big-league life. The 35-year-old, of course, flamed out as a pitcher after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2000 before following a long road back through the minors and then re-emerging as a hitter in 2007. He last appeared in the big leagues in 2013.

Phillies Sign Francoeur, Seven Others To Minor-League Deals

The Phillies have announced the signings of eight players to minor league deals with spring training invites. The list includes multiple players who could presumably play a role on the big league team if it deals from its current roster.

The list of announced players is as follows:

Every player on that list has MLB experience, and many have fairly extensive time in the bigs. Francoeur, of course, is a former top prospect and long-time starter who spent time both playing in the outfield and pitching last year in the Padres organization. He is one of several signees who could provide options if the Phillies were to move any of their current outfielders. The infield-capable members of this list may create some flexibility as well.

At various times, all of Marlon Byrd, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown have found their names as rumored trade candidates. Though shortstop Jimmy Rollins and, to a lesser extent, second baseman Chase Utley have both been named as potential trade chips as well, those players enjoy full no-trade protection and appear less likely to be dealt.


Players Who Have Elected Minor League Free Agency

A total of 43 players have elected to become minor league free agents, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy in his latest round-up of minor league transactions.  MLBTR has already reported on some of these moves over the last few days, and here is the rest of the list, with players grouped by their most recent team…


Minor Moves: Francoeur, Sexton, Figgins, Krill

Here are the minor moves of the day …

  • The Padres tweet that Jeff Francoeur has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A El Paso. Frenchy was designated for assignment earlier this week after struggling with the big league club, but the former NL Rookie of the Year candidate has performed quite well at the Triple-A level this season.
  • Former Padres farmhand Tim Sexton has inked a minor league deal with the Athletics, according to Midland RockHounds assistant GM of media relations Greg Bergman (h/t: Melissa Lockard of OaklandClubhouse.com). Sexton, a 27-year-old right-hander, has a 5.90 ERA in 58 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season, and he has a lifetime 6.68 ERA at the Triple-A level. He’s been much better at Double-A, however, with a 4.40 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 188 1/3 innings at that level.
  • The Dodgers have requested unconditional released waivers on utilityman Chone Figgins, the club announced. The veteran was designated for assignment last Wednesday. He has reached base at an impressive .373 clip on the year, but has slugged only .267 over his 76 plate appearances.
  • The Giants have released outfielder Brett Krill, according to the PCL transactions page. Krill, 25, struggled at all levels this year, including his first attempt at Triple-A. His aggregate triple-slash on the season is .191/.260/.253 over 197 plate appearances. Krill has seen his offensive production decline steadily as he has moved up in the system over the last four years.

Padres Designate Jeff Francoeur For Assignment

The Padres have designated outfielder Jeff Francoeur for assignment to clear room for top prospect Rymer Liriano‘s promotion, tweets Marty Caswell of 1090 radio in San Diego.

The 30-year-old Francoeur recently joined the Friars’ big league club after spending much of the season with Triple-A El Paso, but he collected just a pair of hits and three walks in 28 trips to the plate. Frenchy hasn’t produced in the Majors since a surprising 20-20 campaign for the Royals back in 2011 — an effort that was impressive enough to net him a two-year. $13.5MM deal to remain in Kansas City.

That contract proved to be a misstep for Kansas City GM Dayton Moore, however, as Francoeur has batted just .226/.269/.346 since that time and was designated for assignment midway through the contract’s second season. The former top prospect and Rookie of the Year candidate did enjoy a nice season with El Paso this year, as he batted a healthy .294/.325/.465 with 15 homers in 416 plate appearances.

Liriano, 23, is batting a robust .291/.362/.473 with 14 homers and 20 steals between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He ranked sixth on MLB.com’s midseason list of the Top 20 Padres prospects. MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo noted that Liriano has plenty of raw power and above-average speed, but he’ll need to refine his approach at the plate because of his propensity to swing and miss. His bat profiles well at any outfield position, according to the MLB.com duo.