Juan Francisco Rumors

AL East Notes: Lester, Norris, Blue Jays, Cashman

In an appearance on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show, Jon Lester explained recent comments that he wouldn’t necessarily go to the highest bidder this offseason (via WEEI’s Rob Bradford). “…I don’€™t need to go to the highest bidder if that isn’€™t going to make me happy,” said Lester. “I’€™m not going to just take the highest bid, the money, the most years just because it’€™s in front of you. … I make decisions based on me and my family and is this place — “whether it’€™s Boston or one of the other 29 teams –€“ is this place going to be good for me and my family?” Lester did note that he could still end up signing the highest bidder, of course, but the happiness of his family will be the top priority. Lester also repeated that he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward the Red Sox, and he discussed his farewell to owner John Henry as well.

Here’s more from the AL East…

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with Mike Wilner and Ben Ennis today, and Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith provides some of the highlights. Of particular note was the fact that Anthopoulos said top prospect Daniel Norris could be a factor out of the team’s bullpen in September if he continues to pitch well. The 21-year-old Norris has skyrocketed up prospect rankings this year on the heels of a 2.25 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 108 innings across Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A.
  • Nicholson-Smith also writes that the Blue Jays have made several waiver claims this month, but none have resulted in the acquisition of a new player. The team isn’t expected to make a trade today, but it will need to clear a roster spot for the returning Edwin Encarnacion. Nicholson-Smith notes that the Jays are willing to cut ties with out-of-options players, and Anthopoulos has expressed some frustration with Juan Francisco‘s strikeout tendencies. However, he adds that the Blue Jays do value Francisco’s left-handed power.
  • Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner isn’t committing to bringing back longtime general manager Brian Cashman in 2015, but the Yankee GM tells George A. King III of the New York Post that he’s not bothered by the situation. “That’s the process,” said Cashman, whose contract expires after the 2014 season. “There isn’t much to say at this point. That’s for another day.” Steinbrenner’s comments to King were of a similar nature, as he chose to focus on the season at hand rather than the future of his GM.
  • Steinbrenner also says he’s had no recent conversations with Alex Rodriguez, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, but the Yankees are expecting A-Rod to return in 2015 following his 162-game suspension. The 39-year-old former MVP has three years and $61MM remaining on his contract.

Blue Jays Notes: Prospects, Asdrubal, Headley

After going into the All-Star break on a 2-8 slide, the Blue Jays have righted the ship by winning seven of 10 games since the Midsummer Classic.  This hot streak has gotten the Jays back into the postseason picture, as they currently hold a one-game lead over the Yankees for the second AL wild card slot.  Here’s the latest hot stove buzz out of Toronto…

  • The Phillies specifically scouted a recent rehab start by Jays southpaw prospect Sean Nolin, Rogers Sportnet’s Shi Davidi reports.  Nolin was rated as the 97th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2013 season, and he owns a 3.12 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 1.62 K/BB rate over 13 Triple-A starts.
  • Also from Davidi’s piece, the Rangers are one of a few clubs who have been sending more scouts to watch the Jays’ short-season Class A team in Vancouver.  Righty Miguel Castro, left-hander Jairo Labourt and shortstop Franklin Barreto appear to be drawing the bulk of the scouts’ interest.
  • Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is “an option” for the Jays, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).  Cabrera would presumably be a candidate at second base for Toronto since Jose Reyes is locked into the shortstop job; Cabrera saw lots of action at the keystone over the first three years of his career but hasn’t seen any action at 2B since 2009.  He is a free agent this winter and is thought to be an expendable piece for the Tribe since top prospect Francisco Lindor is on the way.
  • The Padres were willing to pay all of the $4MM that was owed to Chase Headley for the rest of the 2014 season as part of a proposed deal that would’ve sent the third baseman to Toronto, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports.  An executive familiar with the negotiations between the Padres and Jays tells Elliott that San Diego was asking for Juan Francisco and two “not big-time prospects” in return.  Francisco (.242/.313/.529 with 16 homers in 249 PA) is having a much better season than Headley (.238/.300/.371 with eight homers in 330 PA) and comes with three years of control while Headley is a free agent after this season, though Headley has obviously been the more high-profile player in recent years.  San Diego ended up dealing Headley to the Yankees for Yangervis Solarte, Rafael De Paula and all but $1MM of Headley’s remaining salary.
  • The Blue Jays were one of 28 teams at the Rusney Castillo showcase on Saturday, Shi Davidi tweets, with the Jays sending “multiple people” to check out the Cuban outfielder.

AL East Notes: Cano, Yankees, Cruz, Francisco

Robinson Cano told reporters, including the New York Daily News’ Andy Martino, that he wasn’t bothered by the boos he received in returning to Yankee Stadium. Martino goes on to opine that the booing of Cano seems to be the only emotion the Yankee fanbase can muster due to the team’s lackluster performance. He asked Brett Gardner how the club could be more consistent at the plate and received a frustrated reply: “Well, if we knew that, we would have done it two days ago.” More on the Yankees’ decision to let Cano walk and the AL East…

  • Martino’s colleague, John Harper, wonders if the Yankees would let Cano walk again if they had a mulligan on the offseason. As he notes, there’s virtually no certainty next season in the infield with Derek Jeter retiring, Brian Roberts on a one-year deal, Mark Teixeira‘s injuries, an unproven track record for Yangervis Solarte and Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension. While the back-end of any Cano deal would surely look poor, he asks if that would be an acceptable price to pay for chasing greatness in the short term.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels appeared on The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Moseley in Texas yesterday and discussed Nelson Cruz‘s hot start with the Orioles. Daniels said he’s not surprised to see Cruz thriving — though they wouldn’t have expected 20 homers through this point in the season. He adds that Texas made multiple attempts to sign Cruz, making a qualifying offer and offering a multi-year deal at the Winter Meetings. Daniels adds: “…by the time it came down to Spring Training, when he was signing, there was some other factors at play. We made the decision that we did to give our own guys an opportunity and keep the draft pick.”
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet breaks down Juan Francisco‘s strong play for the Blue Jays and wonders if the Jays could possibly have struck gold on a third low-cost slugger acquisition. Davidi points out that Toronto stumbled into franchise cornerstones Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Francisco is cut largely from the same cloth. Davidi looks at improvements to Francisco’s pitch selection — though his strikeout rate remains high — and changes to his approach made by the team’s coaching staff. Francisco, a close friend of Encarnacion, says he feels at home with the Jays. Davidi also reports that Toronto tried to acquire Francisco last season as well before Atlanta traded him to Milwaukee, suggesting he’s been on their radar for quite some time.


AL East Notes: Morales, O’s, Francisco, Yankees

Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette appeared on Buster Olney’s podcast today and discussed a variety of topics, including Kendrys Morales (Duquette appears around the 27:00 mark). Asked by Olney about the speculation that Morales could help his team, Duquette replied, “We don’t have any plans to add anybody to our ball club right now … Matt Wieters, with the issue he has in with his elbow, is going to take some at-bats in our DH position, so we’re all set. When we signed Nelson Cruz, that pretty much closed the door on that speculation.” Duquette also talked about his team’s strong start to the year in spite of several injuries as well as Manny Machado‘s elite defense. More from that interview and the rest of the AL East below…

  • Duquette also fielded questions on the contract status of Wieters and Chris Davis (around the 36:20 mark), noting that the club has twice tried to extend Wieters and once tried to extend Davis as well. “I like Chris and Matt on the ball club, but having said that, we’ve already made that effort, and I’m not really going to be discussing that this year during the season with those players.” Both Wieters and Davis are Scott Boras clients, which makes the task of hammering out a long-term deal a more difficult one, as Boras typically encourages his players to go year-to-year and test the open market.
  • Shifting gears from the O’s to the Blue Jays, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets that the main reason behind Juan Francisco choosing to sign in Toronto was a recruiting pitch from Edwin Encarnacion. After Francisco was cut by the Brewers in Spring Training, Encarnacion called his countryman and pitched Toronto, and the result has been a .311/.403/.623 batting line with five homers in 72 PAs for Francisco.
  • In a special piece for ESPN New York, Danny Knobler writes that the perception of the Yankees as an “old-school” team is misleading. Knobler spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, who called the Yankees “way more [progressive] than people think.” Knobler also points out that the Yankees trail only the Astros in terms of infield shifting this season, a fact that isn’t lost on division rival Joe Maddon. The Rays skipper told Knobler: They’re exceeding us. It doesn’t surprise me. It disappoints me. I much preferred when they thought we were nuts, that we were bastardizing the game.”

AL East Notes: July 2 Spending, Blue Jays, Jeter

The American League East is about as tightly clustered as possible at this point, with just 1.5 games separating the field. With plenty of interesting situations developing in the division’s five organizations, it should (as usual) be a fascinating race to watch — both on the field and in the transactional rumor mill. Here’s the latest:

  • In a preview — or, in some respects, a roundup — of the July 2 prospect signing period, Ben Badler of Baseball America says that the American League East figures to lead the way in spending. We have already heard about the Yankees‘ plans to blow well past their bonus limits on this year’s international prospect market, but Badler says that the division-rival Rays and Red Sox also appear poised to incur the maximum penalties for going beyond their pool allocations. (In an earlier report, Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel reported upon many of the verbal agreements and rumored matches that form the basis of Badler’s piece.) If that holds true, then each of those three AL East competitors — and, potentially, the Brewers – would not only pay a 100% tax on any over-bonus spending, but would also sacrifice the right to sign any July 2 player to more than a $300K bonus next year.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke today about several current topics involving his club, with MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm among those present (links to Twitter). Anthopoulos made clear that there were no active trade discussions taking place at present with rival front offices, which is surely unsurprising at this stage of the season.
  • Anthopoulos also provided new information on two situations that we touched upon last night. First, he said that injured starter Brandon Morrow was expected to avoid surgery and could return around the All-Star break, meaning that he may still contribute in 2014 and could conceivably pitch well enough to entice Toronto to pick up his 2015 club option ($10MM/$1MM buyout). Meanwhile, the GM threw cold water on the idea of permanently transitioning Brett Lawrie to second base to free playing time for Juan Francisco. Of course, that still leaves other possibilities for the Jays to keep Francisco in the fold when Adam Lind returns from injury.
  • With Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan making his way back to the club, manager Joe Girardi will face an increasingly complicated situation, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Of course, Derek Jeter remains entrenched at short for the time being, but the living legend has struggled at the plate and in the field. New York GM Brian Cashman recently confirmed that Girardi has full authority to determine who plays and where they hit in the lineup. And Sherman notes that the manager has made several moves — both with respect to former catcher Jorge Posada and, more recently, involving Jeter himself — that hint he is not afraid to ruffle some feathers if necessary to win. With the division shaping up to go down to the wire, Sherman says that Girardi may need to “play[] bad cop” in dividing playing time going forward.

AL East Notes: Morrow, Francisco, Cruz, Santana, Sabathia

With Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow going to the 60-day DL with a torn tendon sheath, the Star’s Richard Griffin writes that Morrow may well have thrown his last pitch for the club. As Griffin notes, the 29-year-old’s $10MM club option (which comes with a $1MM buyout) seems unlikely to be exercised at this point after yet another significant injury. Here’s more from Toronto and the rest of the AL East:

  • Indications are that the Blue Jays will look to keep power-hitting corner infielder Juan Francisco in the fold after Adam Lind is activated, tweets Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star. Discussing the situation, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes that Toronto could conceivably drop one of its eight relievers or shift Brett Lawrie into the club’s regular second base role.
  • Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz discussed his difficult last year with MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, saying that it was hardest on his family. As for the qualifying offer situation, Cruz said he probably would have grabbed it had he known what was in store. “But it’s something that you risk and you trust your instincts,” said Cruz. “In this case, it wasn’t what I expected. But I’m happy with my decision and happy with where I am now. That’s the only thing that matters.” From the O’s perspective, executive VP Dan Duquette said that the deal was made when Cruz’s camp “adjusted what they were looking for in terms of the term” (i.e. length) of the deal. Cruz if off to a hot start, of course, posting a .294/.369/.596 triple-slash with nine home runs in his first 122 plate appearances with Baltimore.
  • A less-consequential decision for the Orioles front office was the low-risk signing of one-time ace Johan Santana, who has been working his way back to full strength on a minor league contract. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter that Santana’s fastball has reached the 88-89 mph range, with his slider in the low-80′s and change in the mid-70′s. While that obviously represents a significant drop from his peak years, Santana posted an average fastball velocity of just 89.6 mph in his 2.98 ERA, 199-inning 2010 season.
  • In a chat today, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick touched upon the situation of Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. A scout recently told Crasnick that Sabathia’s offerings are “very fringy,” and that he will need impeccable control to be effective going forward. On the other hand, Crasnick opines that Sabathia has actually delivered decent value to New York on his massive contract. For what it’s worth, Sabathia’s unsightly 5.75 ERA through his first 40 2/3 innings in 2014 is much worse than his 4.16 FIP, 2.95 xFIP, and 2.92 SIERA marks. Indeed, while Sabathia has been hurt by the long ball (21.9% HR/FB rate) and a .361 BABIP, he is sporting 9.74 K/9 against just 1.99 BB/9 while generating a 50.8% ground-ball rate.

Blue Jays To Sign Juan Francisco

The Blue Jays have agreed to sign corner infielder Juan Francisco, according to a report from Hector Gomez of Dominican radio outlet ZDeportes (via Twitter). Francisco, 26, had spent camp with the Brewers but was released when he lost the battle at first to Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay. He is a client of Relativity Baseball.

Last year, in 385 plate appearances, the left-handed swinging Francisco hit .227/.296/.422 with 18 home runs while spending time at first and third (and being limited almost exclusively to facing righties). In parts of five years at the MLB level, Francisco has a cumulative .243/.300/.432 triple-slash and 32 long balls in 771 plate appearances. In addition to his struggles getting on base (last year, he had 138 strikeouts against 32 walks), Francisco's value has been limited by his defense. Though he graded out well in 2012, advanced metrics did not like his work at either of the corner positions last year.

Signed as an amateur free agent out of his native Dominican Republic back in 2004 by the Reds, Francisco broke into the bigs with Cincinnati before being dealt to the Braves for J.J. Hoover in 2012. He was shipped off to Milwaukee last year and tendered arbitration as a Super Two (the sides agreed upon a $1.35MM contract). With less than three years of MLB service time accrued, Francisco will come with three years of control, if the Jays choose to tender him.


NL Notes: Corbin, Guerrero, Young, Francisco, Matsuzaka, Fowler

MLBTR's own Charlie Wilmoth has just released a new book. Titled "Dry Land," the volume traces the Pirates and their fans through the club's historic losing streak and recent renaissance. Be sure to check out this post for more details and how you can order a copy. On to the links:

  • In two expected moves out of the NL West, Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks underwent Tommy John surgery today, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets, while the Dodgers optioned Alex Guerrero to Triple-A, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets.
  • The Nationals have received trade interest from three or four clubs in starter Chris Young, who has an opt-out in his contract this coming Thursday, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The 33-year-old has had an impressive spring, but seems unlikely to crack the Nats' rotation. 
  • The Pirates have no interest in signing Juan Francisco if he clears waivers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. We learned earlier today that the team had chosen to go with Travis Ishikawa over Andrew Lambo as its left-handed bat at first.
  • For the Mets, giving Daisuke Matsuzaka a $100K bonus is in large part a strategic effort to protect the club in the event that Jon Niese is unable to make his first start, explains ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. This way, the team can rely on both Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia if the need arises, or can simply pick between them for the fifth starter slot.
  • The Rockies are better off without center fielder Dexter Fowler because he "isn't tough enough," opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. (Fowler, of course was dealt to the Astros. As presented in my offseason review for the club, I have a different take on the subject of Fowler's departure from Colorado.) Though Kiszla initially credited Fowler with having "the determination to grind through pain" in mid-August of last year, he apparently adjusted his analysis after the 28-year-old missed twenty games late in the season with ongoing hand and wrist injuries. Manager Walt Weiss effectively pushed Fowler out of town, says Kiszla, because the latter "was not the kind of player Weiss needs on a team that must grind out victories in the National League West." Apparently referring obliquely to Fowler, Weiss emphasized the need for players "to compete and grind and play with grit," while assistant GM Bill Geivett explained that the manager "has got to feel comfortable in the weapons he has to attack the other team." 

Brewers Request Release Waivers On Juan Francisco

The Brewers have requested waivers on corner infielder Juan Francisco for the purpose of his unconditional release, tweets team senior director of media relations Mike Vassallo.  Any team claiming Francisco would owe him his $1.35MM salary, though the Brewers are only on the hook for 45 days' pay, around $332K.  Francisco's impending departure from the Brewers became known yesterday when they cleared out his locker.

Francisco, 26, hit .227/.296/.422 with 18 home runs in 385 plate appearances for the Braves and Brewers last year, playing first base and third base.  A left-handed hitter, Francisco faced righties in 91% of his plate appearances.  He joined the Brewers via trade last year in June.

Rather than use Francisco at first base this year, the Brewers will put non-roster invitees Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay on the Opening Day roster.


Juan Francisco, Brewers Likely To Part Ways

There hasn't yet been an official announcement, but the Brewers appear to be in the process of parting ways with first baseman Juan Francisco. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Todd Rosiak reports (via Twitter) that Francisco's locker has been cleared out, a possible sign that the Brewers have designated Francisco for assignment. The move likely means the Brewers will have veterans Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay play first base.

Francisco was set to make $1.35MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two. He hit .227/.296/.422 in 385 plate appearances with the Brewers last season, not an especially impressive line, given that he is not a strong defensive player.