Juan Francisco Rumors


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.



Rosenthal's Latest: Masterson, Burns, Olt, Francisco

In his latest piece for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal wonders how the Indians could possibly say no to Justin Masterson's proposed extension. Rosenthal's sources tell him Masterson is seeking a three-year extension on top of his current deal at roughly market value in terms of average annual salary (Rosenthal speculates $17-18MM). Few Cleveland stars in any sport express a willingness to take a discount to stay, adds Rosenthal, and it would send a poor message to fans and the Indians' players to make the decision not to pay Masterson. Here are some more highlights from a jam-packed Rosenthal column...

  • Outfielder Billy Burns might be the most intriguing player in Athletics camp, writes Rosenthal. Acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Jerry Blevins, Burns was attractive to the A's because he was one of just three players in all of minor league baseball with more than 50 stolen bases and an OBP north of .400 last season. Burns has swiped seven bags in eight Spring Training games thus far, and scouts have raved about his instincts as a leadoff man, says Rosenthal.
  • Mike Olt has looked good thus far in camp with the Cubs, and the team's preference is for him to win the third base job out of Spring Training rather than head back to Triple-A. Doing so would allow the club to start Christian Villanueva at third in Triple-A and Kris Bryant at the hot corner in Double-A. Rosenthal points out that if Olt were to rebound from the concussion/vision issues that plagued him last season, the Cubs' haul for Matt Garza would look all the more impressive. Chicago also plucked C.J. Edwards from the Rangers, who enters the 2014 season ranked as the game's No. 26 prospect, per Baseball America.
  • Brewers first baseman Juan Francisco could be squeezed out again and find himself on the move, writes Rosenthal. Francisco is out of options, and the Brew Crew could prefer to take Lyle Overbay as a potential pairing with Mark Reynolds due to Overbay's superior glove. Rosenthal speculates that the Tigers could be a good fit for Francisco, as they have just four players capable of hitting left-handed on their roster. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ran down all of the NL Central's out-of-options players yesterday.
  • It's been reported in recent days that the Royals and James Shields aren't likely to work out an extension, and sources tell Rosenthal the same thing. A Masterson extension would be a clear benefit to Shields, as Shields would have less competition on next year's open market. MLBTR recently examined what Shields might earn as a free agent next offseason.



Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements...

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
  • Cesar Ramos got $750K from the Rays in his deal, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets
  • Sherman tweets that the Athletics' Craig Gentry will get $1.145MM on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
  • Jerry Blevins and the Nationals avoided arbitration, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. He will earn $1.675MM for the year, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Alejandro De Aza agreed to a $4.25MM deal with the White Sox, Sherman tweets.  Within the same tweet, Sherman says the Rays shook hands with Jose Lobaton on a $900K deal and James Russell agreed to a $1.775MM pact.
  • The White Sox and Gordon Beckham agreed to a one-year, $4.175MM deal, Sherman tweets.
  • The Brewers avoided arbitration with Marco Estrada and Juan Francisco, Sherman tweets.  Estrada gets $3.325MM with $100K in innings pitched bonuses while Francisco gets $1.35MM.
  • Mike Dunn agreed to a $1.4MM deal with the Marlins, according to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel (on Twitter). 
  • Pedro Alvarez will earn $4.25MM on his brand new deal with the Pirates, Sherman tweets.
  • The Nationals announced that they've struck an arb-avoiding deal with Wilson Ramos.  Ramos gets $2.095MM with the opportunity to get $105K more through plate appearance bonuses, per Sherman.
  • Alexi Ogando gets $2.625MM in 2014 from the Rangers, according to Sherman.
  • Mark Melancon will get $2.595MM after striking a deal with the Pirates, tweets Sherman.
  • Brandon Moss and the Athletics avoided arbitration with a $4.1MM pact, Sherman tweets.
  • The Red Sox and Jonathan Herrera avoided arbitration with a $1.3MM deal for 2014, Sherman tweets.
  • Brian Duensing has agreed to a $2MM deal with the Twins, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (via Twitter). Berardino adds in a second tweet that Anthony Swarzak also avoided arb with a $935K deal. The swingman will earn a $25K bonus if he starts 10 games.
  • The Rangers and Neftali Feliz agreed to a $3MM deal with bonuses of $25K for 50/55 games finished, Sherman tweets.
  • Jake McGee will earn $1.45MM in his new deal with the Rays, Sherman tweets.
  • The Royals and Eric Hosmer have agreed to a one-year, $3.6MM deal, Sherman tweets.
  • Mike Carp gets $1.4MM in his deal with the Red Sox, according to Sherman (via Twitter).
  • Bobby Parnell agreed to a one-year, $3.7MM with the Mets that can increase by $50K if he appears in 60 games, Sherman tweets.
  • The Braves avoided arbitration with Jordan Schafer with a $1.09MM deal, tweets Sherman.  Sherman adds that Andy Dirks and the Tigers have also avoided arbitration with a $1.625MM deal.  
  • Shawn Kelley and the Yankees dodged arbitration by agreeing to a $1.765MM deal for 2014, Sherman tweets.  Kelley, 29, has a career 3.77 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9.
  • The Red Sox agreed to a one-year, $1.275MM deal with Junichi Tazawa, according to Sherman (on Twitter).  Tazawa posted a 3.16 ERA in 2013 with 9.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9.
  • The Rockies avoided arbitration with Drew Stubbs by agreeing to a $4.1MM deal for 2014, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter).  With the signing of Stubbs, the Rockies have now taken care of all of their arbitration-eligible players.
  • Kyle Blanks has avoided arbitration with the Padres by agreeing to a one-year, $988K deal, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Twitter). 
  • Sherman also reports (on Twitter) that the Giants have avoided arbitration with Gregor Blanco and Tony Abreu by agreeing to one-year deals that are worth $2.525MM and $745K, respectively.
  • The Cardinals and Peter Bourjos have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.2MM contract, tweets Sherman. Bourjos can earn another $150K based on plate appearances.
  • Gaby Sanchez and the Pirates have avoided arbitration with a one-year deal, according to Sanchez's agency, the Beverly Hills Sports Council (on Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Sanchez will earn $2.3MM.
  • Sherman reports (via Twitter) that the Blue Jays also avoided arbitration with Esmil Rogers by agreeing to a one-year, $1.85MM contract.
  • The Nationals announced that in addition to their two-year deal with Jordan Zimmermann, they've also signed Drew Storen to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. Sherman tweets that he'll earn $3.45MM in 2014 with an additional $1MM of incentives in his contract for games finished.
  • The Rockies and righty Juan Nicasio avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.025MM contract, Sherman tweets.
  • The Blue Jays and lefty Brett Cecil have avoided arbitration with a one-year, $1.3MM pact, per Sherman (on Twitter).
  • Sherman tweets that the Rays and Matt Joyce agreed to a one-year, $3.7MM contract, thereby avoiding arbitration.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Reds have avoided arbitration with Alfredo Simon by agreeing to a one-year, $1.5MM contract (Twitter link).
  • Connolly also reports that the Orioles have avoided arbitration with Tommy Hunter (Twitter link). Currently the front-runner to serve as Baltimore's closer in 2014, Hunter will earn $3MM after posting a 2.81 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 86 1/3 innings for the O's in 2013.
  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles and Troy Patton have avoided arbitration (Twitter link). Patton topped Swartz's $1.2MM salary projection by earning a raise to $1.275MM, Connolly adds in a second tweet.. Patton will be suspended for the first 25 games of 2014 for amphetamine use.
  • The Twins and Trevor Plouffe have agreed to a one-year, $2.35MM contract, Sherman tweets. Plouffe saw his power numbers drop as he batted .254/.309/.392 with 14 homers in a career-high 522 plate appearances in 2013 (he'd belted 24 homers in 465 PAs in 2012). He figures to open the season as Minnesota's everyday third baseman but could eventually have competition from top prospect Miguel Sano.
  • Jon Jay and the Cardinals have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.25MM contract, according to Sherman (on Twitter). Jay batted .276/.351/.370 with the Cards in 2013 but struggled defensively (particularly in the playoffs) and will have center field competition in the form of offseason acquisition Peter Bourjos in 2014.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Phillies and John Mayberry Jr. have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.5875MM. Mayberry slashed .227/.286/.391 in 2013 and has a career .274/.321/.526 batting line against lefties. He came in just under Swartz's $1.7MM projection.
  • The Cubs and Luis Valbuena have also avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year pact, tweets Sherman. Valbuena will earn $1.71MM after slashing .218/.331/.378 and setting a new career-best with 12 homers in 2013. He exceeded Swartz's projection by $210K.

Zach Links contributed to this post.



Brewers Notes: Payroll, Free Agency, Hart, First Base

The GM Meetings begin tomorrow in Orlando and run through Wednesday, but it could be a very quiet three days for the Brewers. "I don't anticipate us being overly active at this point but things could change," GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There's not a lot of openings in the regular lineup." Budget constraints will also play a role in the Brewers' level of activity, according to Haudricourt, as the club is approximately $14MM under its 2013 Opening Day payroll (not including arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries). Here's more from Haudricourt's piece:

  • "There's nothing major on the free-agent market we'll probably get involved with," Melvin said. "Maybe we'll do something with the bullpen, make an addition or two."
  • Melvin sees first base as the one position the Brewers need to fill. Re-signing Corey Hart, who is drawing interest from the Mets and a handful of other teams, is the coventional wisdom, but Melvin has only committed to speaking with agent Jeff Berry about Hart's status at some point.
  • The Brewers are not believed to have interest in Justin Morneau, James Loney, and/or Mike Napoli at this stage.
  • If Hart doesn't re-sign with Milwaukee, one internal option is Juan Francisco, who is showing improvement offensively during Dominican Winter League play (.338/.437/.568 with 18 RBIs - second in the DWL - in 74 at-bats including a .404/.462/.702 slash with 14 RBIs versus left-handers in 47 at-bats, per MLB.com). At the least, Haudricourt sees Francisco providing depth at both infield corners (Francisco has split his time with Licey between third base and DH while appearing in just three games at first).
  • Providing middle infield depth will be Elian Herrera, who the Brewers claimed off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday. "He's somebody who can play all over the field, including shortstop if we need it," said Melvin.



NL Central Notes: Cardinals, Freese, Brewers, Bard

The NL Central features a pair of matchups this afternoon each at a different end of the spectrum. The division-leading Cardinals are hosting the Pirates and lead Pittsburgh by one-half game while the Brewers and Cubs are at Wrigley Field battling to avoid the cellar. The Brewers sit in fourth place by only one game. In other news and notes from the NL Central:

  • The first place Cardinals can thank their deep farm system (especially in terms of pitching reinforcements) for their place in the standings, but it has had a ripple effect throughout the entire system, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • Bernie Miklasz, Goold's colleague at the Post-Dispatch, agrees the Cardinals' young talent has been a tremendous resource; but, with Allen Craig nursing a sprained foot, the club will turn to a grizzled playoff veteran: David Freese.
  • The Brewers have a glaring hole at first base with seven different players starting there this season, but Juan Francisco's audition to win the job for 2014 hasn't gone well, opines Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Since a two-home run, four-RBI game against the Rangers on August 14, Francisco has slumped with only seven hits in 44 at bats (.159), two RBIs, and 23 strikeouts.
  • In an recent online chat, Rosiak explained trading either Yovani Gallardo or Kyle Lohse this offseason wouldn't make sense because it would create more holes in a rotation which already doesn't have enough proven arms.
  • Within that same chat, Rosiak can envision the Brewers cutting ties with Rickie Weeks citing the recent examples of Bill Hall, Jeff Suppan, and Randy Wolf. Rosiak notes those three cases occurred in the final year of their contracts, which is what Weeks is entering in 2014.
  • Right-hander Daniel Bard, claimed on waivers by the Cubs last Wednesday, threw his second bullpen session today, but there is still no timetable for him to see any game action, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.  "It’d be nice to see but it’s his timetable and we’ll evaluate and we’ll find out how he’s doing and how he’s feeling," said manager Dale Sveum. Bard is eligible for arbitration this winter.
  • Earlier today, the Cubs designated infielder Cody Ransom for assignment to create roster space for right-hander Scott Baker, who is making his first MLB appearance in two years.  



Brewers Acquire Juan Francisco; Release Alex Gonzalez

The Brewers acquired third baseman Juan Francisco from the Braves for minor league lefty reliever Tom Keeling, announced the teams.  Additionally, the Brewers announced they've asked for waivers for the unconditional release of infielder Alex Gonzalez, while recalling second baseman Scooter Gennett and optioning Mike Fiers.

The Braves designated Francisco for assignment last Thursday to open a roster spot for Alex Wood.  Francisco, 25, hit .237/.281/.420 in 320 plate appearances spanning 2012-13 for Atlanta.  They had acquired him in an April 2012 trade with the Reds for reliever J.J. Hoover.  Signed out of the Dominican Republic by Cincinnati in 2004, Francisco hit the prospect radar a few years later.  Baseball America praised his arm and big raw power, questioning his aggressive approach at the plate.  Francisco has played only third base in the Majors, and has played a handful of minor league games at the outfield corners and at first.  In the short-term, though, GM Doug Melvin indicated on WSSP SportsRadio 1250 that Francisco will play first for the Brewers.  Looking ahead, Francisco could be a viable replacement at the hot corner if the Brewers trade Aramis Ramirez this summer.

Keeling, 25, was drafted out of Oklahoma State by the Brewers in the 18th round in 2010.  In 17 relief frames at Double-A this year, he has a 3.18 ERA, 10.1 K/9, and 5.3 BB/9, with one home run allowed.  According to MLB.com's Mark Bowman, "Keeling is a future bullpen piece who could get to Atlanta in 2014. He's hit 93 on the gun and occasionally uses a sideam delivery."  Baseball America's J.J. Cooper paints a less rosy picture, tweeting, "Keeling is a fringy potential left-handed reliever with a below average fastball, OK slider."

Gonzalez, 36, signed a Major League deal worth $1.45MM in February.  His release came after a .177/.203/.230 line in 118 plate appearances.  A shortstop by trade, Gonzalez spent more time this year at the infield corners due to injuries to Corey Hart and Ramirez.  Gonzalez had ACL surgery on his knee a year ago and battled a hamstring injury about a month ago.  He lost playing time to Yuniesky Betancourt, who hit six home runs in April.  The Brewers will be on the hook for Gonzalez's salary this year, less a pro-rated portion of the league minimum should he sign elsewhere.

Gennett, 23, was added to the Brewers' 40-man roster in November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  The 5'9" second baseman was ranked eighth among Brewers prospects by Baseball America prior to the season.  He's a free-swinging line drive hitter with some surprising doubles power, wrote BA.  They added that he has some rough edges to smooth out defensively, with an average arm and range.  Gennett was hitting .297/.342/.376 in 221 plate appearances at Triple-A, and MLB.com's Adam McCalvy suggests he will push Rickie Weeks for the team's starting job at second base.  At the least, some kind of platoon situation is possible, since Gennett bats left-handed and Weeks right-handed.



NL Central Notes: Pirates, Feldman, Mujica, Francisco

The Pirates' record sits at 33-20, and while Fangraphs' Dave Cameron doesn't think the Bucs will keep playing .623 ball for the rest of the season, the team's expected regression shouldn't be enough to keep them from playoff contention, or at the very least their first winning record since 1992.  Of course, last year's Pirates also looked good before completely falling apart after the All-Star break, so Pittsburgh fans shouldn't count their chickens until their club actually posts that 82nd victory. 

Here's the latest from the NL Central...

  • Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman could be a major trade chip this summer, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine writes.  An AL scout tells Levine that Feldman is "one of those pitchers that you don't get that excited about unless you watch him over a period of starts.  He has really commanded his pitches this season and you see the confidence and consistent outings from him."  Feldman signed a one-year, $6MM contract with Chicago last winter and has rebuilt his value by posting a 2.82 ERA, 7.57 K/9, 2.68 K/BB and 50.6% ground ball rate through 10 starts.  (The advanced metrics indicate a bit of luck, as Feldman also has a 3.92 FIP, 3.78 xFIP and a .254 BABIP.)  The Cubs "may be reluctant" to move Feldman, Levine notes, though they would likely make a trade in exchange for a quality prospect.
  • The Cardinals' trade for Edward Mujica last July has turned into a steal, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.  The Cards added Mujica as bullpen depth last year and he has surprisingly blossomed into an elite closer after the club's other end-game options all had injury or performance issues.  Zack Cox, a 2010 first-round draft pick, was sent to the Marlins for Mujica and is hitting .298/.398/.381 at Double-A Jacksonville.  MLBTR's Steve Adams recently looked at how Mujica's performance has greatly enhanced his free agent stock for the coming offseason.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link) doesn't see the Reds making a play for Juan Francisco now that the third baseman has been designated for assignment by the Braves.  Francisco was originally signed by the Reds and played three seasons in Cincinnati before being dealt to Atlanta for J.J. Hoover in April 2012.  The left-handed hitting Francisco makes sense on paper as a complement to Todd Frazier, though I'd suspect the Reds would prefer to keep Frazier playing every day.









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