Juan Francisco Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Braves announced they have designated third baseman Juan Francisco to open a roster spot for southpaw Alex Wood, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Francisco began the season in a third base platoon with Chris Johnson, and even started three of the last five games at the hot corner.
Francisco, 25, hit .237/.281/.420 in 320 plate appearances spanning 2012-13 for the Braves. They had acquired him in an April 2012 trade with the Reds, for reliever J.J. Hoover. Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Reds 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. The Braves are talking multiple clubs about potential Francisco trades, notes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, which was later confirmed by manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Wood, 22, was the Braves' second round pick last year. He'll be the fifth player from the 2012 draft to reach the Majors, along with pitchers Michael Wacha of the Cardinals (who debuts tonight), Kevin Gausman of the Orioles, Paco Rodriguez of the Dodgers, and Michael Roth of the Angels. Wood, ranked seventh among Braves prospects by Baseball America prior to the season, made ten strong starts at Double-A but will work out of the big club's bullpen on what Danny Knobler of CBS Sports calls the "Chris Sale plan." If Wood succeeds in the relief role, it may lessen the Braves' need for outside relief help in the wake of the loss of lefty relievers Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters to Tommy John surgery. Before the season, BA wrote of Wood, "With a better breaking ball, he could become a solid No. 3 starter."
The Braves' current depth chart features Martin Prado in left field and Juan Francisco at third base, but that could change if the Braves acquire an outfielder. If Atlanta were to add an outfielder and move Prado to third base, the club may trade Francisco, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The Marlins and Rays are among the teams that would have interest in Francisco, says Knobler.
Francisco, 25, received a career-high 192 plate appearances in 2012 and hit .234/.278/.432. As a pre-arb player, his salary is likely part of the appeal for cost-conscious teams like the Marlins and Rays.