Tag:Frank Francisco
Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:43 pm
 

Spring primer: New York Mets

Terry Collins

By C. Trent Rosecrans
The Marlins made headlines with their offseason spending spree, the Phillies still have the game's most intimidating rotation, the Nationals have some of the game's biggest young talents and the Braves are a sleeper team that shouldn't be written off because of last season's late collapse. And then there's the Mets. Last season the team finished fourth in the division and went 77-85, and then they lost their best player. To say there's a lack of buzz surrounding the Mets would be an understatement.

Major additions: CF Andres Torres, CL Frank Francisco
Major departures: SS Jose Reyes, RH Chris Capuano

Probable lineup
1. Andres Torres CF
2. Daniel Murphy 2B
3. David Wright 3B
4. Ike Davis 1B
5. Lucas Duda RF
6. Jason Bay LF
7. Josh Thole C
8. Ruben Tejada SS

Probable rotation
1. Johan Santana
2. R.A. Dickey
3. Jonathon Niese
4. Mike Pelfrey
5. Dillon Gee

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Frank Francisco
Set-up: Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, Bobby Parnell

Important bench players
OF Scott Hairston, IF Justin Turner

Prospect to watch
The team's top prospect is right-hander Zack Wheeler, acquired in the Carlos Beltran trade, but if he sees Citi Field this season, it'll likely be near the end of the year when the team's fate has already been decided. Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis could contribute immediately. The 24-year-old missed the second half of the 2011 season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing (left) shoulder, but has been swinging the bat at full strength since last month. Before his injury, he was hitting .298/.403/.505 with six homers in 221 plate appearances for Triple-A Buffalo. A solid all-around player, Nieuwenhuis can play any of the three outfield sports, but center field may be where he could make his mark. The Mets have the 34-year-old Torres as the its starter in center and the 31-year-old Hairston backing him up, so it's not much of a stretch to see Nieuwenhuis get a chance sometime this season.

Fantasy sleeper: Lucas Duda
"From July 15 (about the time he took over for a departed Carlos Beltran) to the end of the season, Duda hit .322 with 10 homers and a .957 OPS -- numbers that jive with his minor-league track record. And that was at old Citi Field, complete with its big gaps, tall fences and ability to crush David Wright's spirit." -- Scott White [Full Mets fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust: David Wright
"Over the last three seasons, he has a .284 batting average and .828 OPS, which are solid numbers but less than elite even for a third baseman. True, his struggles began the same year the Mets moved to spacious Citi Field, but that doesn't explain why his numbers have lagged on the road during that time. Thus, you can't assume the team's decision to move in the fences this year will be Wright's miracle cure. It'll help, but it won't eliminate the injuries, the perpetually rising strikeout rate and the curious home-road splits." -- Scott White [Full Mets fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Santana returns to Cy Young form and Niese takes a step forward, as the Mets pitching staff rounds into form. The new dimensions of Citi Field make a huge difference for the team's offense, with Wright and Bay returning to form, while Duda becomes a star. Even in this perfect world, the Mets could have trouble leapfrogging the Phillies, Marlins and Braves. But Bud Selig could always add another eight playoff spots, giving them a spot in the postseason.

Pessimistic outlook
Santana's injuries continue to haunt him and nobody steps up to take over at the top of the rotation. Davis isn't the same player that he was before his injury and Duda suffers from a sophomore slump, as the offense struggles overall. And then there's the chance that the problems on the field pale in comparison to the ownership problems. The worst-case scenario (well, for 2012, it's may be the best-case scenario for the long term) has a repeat of the Dodger fiasco.

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Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:24 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Boston Red Sox



By Matt Snyder


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

One of the main reasons we came up with this exercise was because of the massive amount of fighting in the comments sections over who "buys" their teams instead of drafting and developing their own talent. In some cases, the accusations are true. In others, they aren't. While these Red Sox don't have Adrian Gonzalez or David Ortiz or Josh Beckett, you'll certainly see several key, familiar names.

Lineup

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
4. Hanley Ramirez, DH
5. David Murphy, LF
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
7. Jed Lowrie, SS
8. Kelly Shoppach, C
9. Josh Reddick, RF

Starting Rotation

1. Jon Lester
2. Clay Buchholz
3. Justin Masterson
4. Anibal Sanchez
5. Carl Pavano

Bullpen

Closer - Jonathan Papelbon
Set up - Daniel Bard, Rafael Betancourt, Frank Francisco, Hideki Okajima
Long - Kyle Weiland, Daisuke Matsuzaka? (Not sure I could stomach that ... )

Notable Bench Players

Ryan Lavarnway, Lars Anderson, Freddy Sanchez, Engel Beltre

What's Good?

The top of the order is sick. If Hanley Ramirez had one of his good years, that's a top four that few in baseball could match. The entire pitching staff is really, really strong, too. Lester as an ace works fine and Masterson and Sanchez are pretty darn good in those slots. There was one point last season (May) when Sanchez was almost as good as anyone. Then you move into the bullpen and the back-end is what it was in 2011, with Bard and Papelbon. Here, though, we get to add Betancourt and Francisco to the mix. That's quite a bridge to Papelbon, and remember, this with a good rotation.

What's Not?

The lineup thins out quickly. It's not awful by any stretch, because Lowrie, Shoppach and Reddick are a decent 7-9, but Murphy isn't good enough to be a fifth hitter in a great lineup and we still can't be sure how Rizzo pans out. Also, there is no depth, either on the bench or in the bullpen. The onus is entirely on the main guys to shoulder the entire workload.

Comparison to real 2011

Let's avoid all the off-field crap and just focus on the issue at hand. Is this team better than the one that was in the AL playoff race until the final out of the season? The offense isn't as good, that's for sure. Most of the other spots are at least close, but the Rizzo/Gonzalez gap at first base is gigantic. Pitching-wise, though, this group is better, top to bottom. There's no Josh Beckett, but there also isn't a full season of John Lackey with mixed in Dice-K and then the spare-part injury replacements they had to use for most of the season. The real-life Red Sox won 90 games and this group feels like a similar one in terms of wins. It's not elite, but it's pretty good.

Next: Detroit Tigers

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Posted on: December 6, 2011 10:11 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Report: Mets sign Frank Francisco

By Matt Snyder

DALLAS -- The Mets have all of a sudden been incredibly active Tuesday night. Not only did they sign a potential closer and make a trade, but now they've signed another potential closer: Frank Francisco. Ken Davidoff of Newsday is reporting the Mets have agreed to sign Francisco to a two-year deal, pending a physical. Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com reports that the deal is for $12 million.

MLB Winter Meetings
Francisco, 32, has a similar track record to newly-signed Met Jon Rauch, in terms of closing experience. In 2011, Francisco closed 17 games in 21 chances with a 3.55 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 50 2/3 innings. He has 49 career saves, but, like Rauch, has never held down a closing job for an entire season. The closest was in 2009, when Francisco had 25 saves, but C.J. Wilson also had 14 saves for the Rangers that year.

Expect Francisco and Rauch to battle for the closing job, maybe even split it, in 2011 with Bobby Parnell and newly-acquired Ramon Ramirez setting up. If the contract terms are any factor, Francisco will get first dibs at closing, because his deal is for longer and more annual money. Plus, Francisco was six-for-six in saves with a 2.70 ERA in September.

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Posted on: November 11, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 2:01 pm
 

Closer look at all 30 closing situations



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 and Matt Snyder

It appears the first domino in closer market has fallen (at least, we're pretty sure this time), but that leaves Heath Bell and Ryan Madson as the top relievers still available. But who needs a closer? Here's a look at the closing situation for all 30 teams.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg is still under contract -- much to the chagrin of new general manager Dan Duquette's chagrin. Gregg will make $5.8 million in 2012, not exactly ideal for a guy with a WHIP of 1.642 last season and an ERA of 4.37 while picking up 22 saves. Jim Johnson recorded nine saves and threw just 91 innings, but doesn't exactly miss a ton of bats. The Orioles could move Johnson to the rotation.
Possibilities: Gregg, Johnson, Bell, Francisco Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton.

Red Sox: Well, obviously Papelbon is gone. Papelbon was the Red Sox closer for the last six years, recording the final out of the 2007 World Series among other memories. Still, As untouchable as he was in his first four years as the closer (1.74 ERA and 0.917 WHIP from 2006-2009), he had a 3.43 ERA and 1.104 WHIP over the last two seasons. Daniel Bard is unhittable at times, but struggled in the last two months of the season (which certainly wasn't uncommon among Red Sox), posting a 6.95 ERA in 21 games in August and September.
Possibilities: Bard, Madson, Bell.

New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera. Enough said.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays let the Yankees overpay for Rafael Soriano and then picked up Kyle Farnsworth off the discard pile, signing him to a two-year, $6 million deal. In retrospect, it was genius -- Farnsworth had 25 saves with a 2.18 ERA in 2011 and the Rays will keep him another year and let someone else overpay him for 2013.

Toronto Blue Jays: Frank Francisco was the team's closer for much of 2011, but he's a free agent and the team could be looking to spend some money on a  closer.
Possibilities: Madson, Bell, Cordero, Rodriguez, Casey Janssen.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: Right-hander Sergio Santos converted 30 of 36 save opportunities, liming batters to just a .181/.282/.314 slash line and he should be in line to keep his job in 2012. If he falters, Addison Reed has a chance to take over.

Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez is on solid ground as the team's closer, picking up 35 saves in 2011.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers picked up the $9 million option on Jose Valverde.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals picked up the $6 million option on Joakim Soria and have options for 2013 and 2014.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins declined their $12.5 million option on incumbent Joe Nathan, but have expressed interest in bringing him back. Although his overall numbers -- 4.84 ERA, 1.164 WHIP, 14 saves -- weren't too impressive, he did convert all 11 of his saves in the second half of the season. Left-hander Glen Perkins had two saves in 2011 and struck out 65 batters in 61 2/3 innings. If the team doesn't sign a free agent -- or trade for someone -- Perkins would have the best shot.
Possibilities: Nathan, Perkins, Jon Rauch, Broxton.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels: Jordan Walden recorded 32 saves as a rookie and made the All-Star team. He did blow 10 saves last season, so it wouldn't be a complete shock if the team looked for an upgrade, but it's not expected, especially with tight purse strings this winter. The team could bring in a veteran for cheap that could close if Walden falters.
Possibilities: Walden, Scott Downs, Broxton, Rauch.

Oakland Athletics: Andrew Bailey is the team's closer, but a trade is always possible with Oakland.

Seattle Mariners: Brandon League had 37 saves and a 2.79 ERA in 2011.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers could be a wild card in the free agent closer market if they decided to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation. The Rangers tried that last spring but decided to keep Feliz in the bullpen. If they bring in a big-name, that would mean they believe Feliz can make the move. If not, there's still a chance of Mike Adams taking over for Feliz. Or they could bring in a low-cost veteran to have in reserve in case Feliz does work in the rotation.
Possibilities: Mike Adams, Madson, Cordero, Rauch, Broxton.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel. Period. 

Miami Marlins: While the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez gets his name issue sorted out, the Marlins have a gaping hole at closer. The current members of their bullpen combined for four saves last season. Do the Marlins try to go with an internal option like Edward Mujica or make a splash on the free agent market (as they've been connected to several huge names already)? 
Possibilities: Nunez, Mujica, Madson, Cordero, Rodriguez, Bell.

New York Mets: If they stay internally, which is entirely possible, it looks like Bobby Parnell. But he wasn't awesome by any stretch when given save chances last season. The Mets have spent big on a free agent closer before (K-Rod), so would they be gunshy in doing so again? It's possible. But it's also possible they try to land someone like Ryan Madson. 
Possibilities: Parnell, Madson, Bell.

Philadelphia Phillies: Papelbon. 

Washington Nationals: Drew Storen closed 43 of 48 games in 2011, his first full season in the majors. One would think that would be enough to earn him at least another year on the job, but Storen's name keeps popping up in trade rumors and the Nationals have been reportedly interested in Madson. The Nats have plenty of money, so if they wanted to ink a big-name closer and deal Storen as part of a package for a center fielder (Denard Span, perhaps?), they would be able to do so. 
Possibilities: Storen, Madson, Bell, Cordero.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: It's probably going to be Carlos Marmol again, but he better get himself in gear. Not only did he blow 10 saves, but his once-astronomical strikeout rate lowered a bit in 2011 and control continues to be a serious problem. With new brass at the helm, 2011 will likely be his last chance to get things fixed. 

Cincinnati Reds: Cordero had a great four-year run with the Reds, amassing 150 saves with a 2.96 ERA, but he's a free agent now. Fireballer Aroldis Chapman is ticketed for the starting rotation and Nick Masset seems to be awfully inconsistent. The Reds don't have the money to spend in free agency, so would they make a trade for, say, Huston Street or Andrew Bailey? Seems unlikely. Either Chapman doesn't make it as a starter and sticks as closer or someone internally (23-year-old Brad Boxberger?) gets a shot. This one is totally up in the air. 
Possibilities: Cordero, Chapman, Boxberger, Bailey, Street, Broxton.

Houston Astros: Mark Melancon saved 20 games with a 2.78 ERA last season. There are far bigger problems with this team to believe they'll try hard to make a change here.

Milwaukee Brewers: John Axford and his award-winning 'stache.  

Pittsburgh Pirates: All-Star Joel Hanrahan nailed down the job last season. 

St. Louis Cardinals: Jason Motte was never officially named closer by the stubborn Tony La Russa, but he did more than enough down the stretch and in the playoffs to earn the job for 2012, closing nine of 10 saves during the Cardinals' late run and five more in the postseason. 

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: It will again be J.J. Putz with David Hernandez filling in if (when?) Putz falls injured.

Colorado Rockies: Street is reportedly on the trading block. If he's is dealt, look for Rafael Betancourt to take over. He collected eight saves with a 2.89 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in 2011. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Rookie Javy Guerra came on to save 21 games in 23 chances with a 2.31 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings in 2011. That's enough to have nailed down the job for the 2011 season, one would think. 

San Diego Padres: Bell is a free agent, but the Padres may just offer him arbitration, and he actually might accept it. If he does stay, the choice is obvious. If Bell leaves, there's a decent internal option in Chad Qualls. Qualls, 33, has 51 career saves. As far as free agency, if the Padres want to pay for a closer, they'll be paying for Bell. 
Possibilities: Bell, Qualls.

San Francisco: The Beard. 

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:28 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:51 pm
 

Free-agent position rankings: Papelbon leads RP



By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

With the free agent reliever market, it always seems to be buyer-beware, but every year teams overspend for closers and setup men. While not exactly a bumper crop this year, there are some good arms available, even if the top closers would all prefer to stay with their current teams. Still, we all know those preferences can go out the window when a higher offer comes.

Jonathan Papelbon1. Jonathan Papelbon: After a disappointing 2010, Papelbon returned to form in 2011, despite recording his lowest save total (31) since becoming the Red Sox closer. Not only was his ERA (2.94) down from 2010, he had his best strikeout rate (12.2 per nine innings) since 2007 and lowest walk rate (1.40 per nine innings) since 2008. His xFIP was 2.16, the lowest of his career. At 31, he's still an elite closer and the best available on the market. The Red Sox had been said to be interested in bringing him back and they still have the payroll to absorb a high-priced closer. Still, don't expect Papelbon to take a home-town discount.
Possible teams:  Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Phillies

Heath Bell2. Heath Bell: When the Padres decided not to trade Bell during the season, it appeared he would be staying in San Diego. However, when the season ended with Bell not getting an extension, things became less sure. Now, Jed Hoyer is off to the Cubs and Josh Byrnes is in as the new GM. With this much change, things could easily change for Bell, who has said all along he'd prefer to stay in San Diego. The Padres may prefer to spend their money elsewhere. Bell is 34, but coming off his third straight 40-save season. One thing that could be troubling for a team is his falling strikeout rate. After striking out 10.2 per nine innings in 2009 and 11.1 in 2010, he struck out a career-low 7.3 per nine innings in 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ration was a career-low 2.43, although that was due to the lower strikeout numbers instead of more walks. Any team considering spending big money on him will have to seriously think about his age and if he's worth what he may command based on gaudy save numbers. He's also been aided by pitching at spacious Petco Park. The Padres may decide they don't need an All-Star closer and their money could be better spent elsewhere. Bell has said he would accept arbitration if offered.
Possible teams: Padres, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Orioles

Ryan Madson3. Ryan Madson: After several attempts earlier in his career to serve as a closer, Madson finally showed the ability to close out games in 2011, finishing with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He's said he'd prefer to stay in Philadelphia, but that's easy to say during the season. A Scott Boras client, the Nationals have to be considered in the mix for Madson, who struck out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings, while walking just 16 batters.
Possible teams: Phillies, Nationals, Red Sox

Jose Valverde4. Jose Valverde: The Tigers hold a $9 million club option on Valverde, which is pretty reasonable for a guy who led the majors with 49 saves and didn't blow a single save all season. Valverde's last outing was far from ideal, allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS, but he's still an elite closer (if not exactly the most comfortable guy to watch). Valverde would command big bucks on the open market, but it seems highly unlikely he'll be there.
Possible teams: Tigers

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero: The Reds probably won't pick up his $12 million option, but he could still stay a Red. Cordero's been a stabilizing influence on the Reds bullpen in his four years in Cincinnati, but for a team like the Reds, it makes little sense to have a closer as the highest-paid player. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty and Cordero have both publicly said they'd like to work out an extension for him to stay in Cincinnati. It's similar to what the Reds did with Bronson Arroyo last offseason. The team is moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, so there's no real in-house candidate to fill in for Cordero if he leaves, so it makes sense to work out a deal. That said, someone could still pop in and make a bigger offer. The Brewers thought they had a deal with Cordero before he left for the Reds, so history could repeat itself.
Possible teams: Reds, Nationals, Mets, Orioles, Blue Jays

Francisco Rodriguez6. Francisco Rodriguez: After being traded to the Brewers, Rodriguez was not used as the team's closer, and said as a free agent, he'd like the opportunity to close again. That's not going to come in Milwaukee, where John Axford has established himself as the Brewers closer. However, after the Brewers' loss in the NLCS, owner Mark Attanasio made sure to point out just how important Rodriguez was to the team's bullpen and how much the club appreciated what he brought to the team. Although he's clearly not going to be the closer in Milwaukee, money talks -- and enough money and he may decide he can set up Axford. Sure, he spoke of being frustrated about not closing in Milwaukee during the year, but seeing the market could open his mind to other propositions.
Possible teams: Brewers, Cardinals, Orioles, Nationals, Phillies

Kyle Farnsworth7. Kyle Farnsworth: Fransworth more than lived up to his one-year deal last season, rewarding the Rays for taking a chance on him with 25 saves and a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 51 in 57 2/3 inning and had a career-best 0.988 WHIP and also his lowest walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9). He made $2.6 million last season and the Rays have a $3.3 million club option (with a $650,000 buyout). It's basically a no-brainer to pick it up. Even if he doesn't repeat his 2011 numbers, he has the type of arm some team will want at the deadline to fortify a bullpen.
Possible teams: Rays, Mets, Marlins

Joe Nathan8. Joe Nathan: It's unlikely the Twins pick up Nathan's $12.5 million option -- that's just too rich for a guy pitching in just 48 games after missing the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. Still, both the Twins and Nathan are said to have interest in the closer returning to Minnesota. The 36-year-old has 260 of his 261 career saves in a Twins uniform and it's hard to imagine the two sides not working something out.
Possible teams: Twins

Kerry Wood9. Kerry Wood: The 34-year-old has already said he will either return to the Cubs in 2012 or retire. Count on the former. Wood was steady in the bullpen in 2011, striking out 57 in 51 innings and also showed no need to be the closer. Steady set-up men are something every team needs, and the Cubs as much as any other team. Wood took a below-market deal to return to the Cubs last season, earning just $1.5 million, and he may be open to doing it again. If so, it seems like a no-brainer to bring him back.
Possible teams: Cubs, retirement

Jeremy Affeldt10. Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt is a left-handed reliever, but he's not just a left-handed specialist. Sure, his numbers against lefties are better (they hit just .144/.206/.200 against him), but he can also stay in and do a good job against right-handers. That versatility adds to his value on the mariet. He's been part of the very good Giants bullpen and expect him to stay there. San Francisco has a $5 million option on him after he earned $4.5 each of the past two seasons. He's earned the pay bump with his solid numbers. If the Giants don't exercise his option, they'll likely work out a multi-year deal with the team.
Possible teams: Giants

Jonathan Broxton11. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off a disappointing 2010, the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just 14 games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September to remove a bone spur and loose bodies. Once an All-Star, Broxton's first year of free agency will likely end with a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Broxton is just 27, but if he's no longer throwing 99 mph, what exactly is his worth? It's unlikely he'll get a job as a closer, but will have the opportunity to prove himself in the spring. The Dodgers appear ready to wash their hands of Broxton, despite the right-hander's statements he'd like to return.
Possible teams: Anyone but the Dodgers

Arthur Rhodes12. Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes has said he wants to pitch one more season and then retire. Rhodes has pitched for nine clubs in his career, including two this season -- the Cardinals and Rangers. While disappointing in Texas, Rhodes has rebounded with the Cardinals after being designated for assignment by the Rangers. Tony La Russa loves playing matchups, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay in St. Louis. 
Possible teams: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Orioles, Blue Jays

Jon Rauch13. Jon Rauch: Rauch had 11 saves for the Blue Jays, pitching in 53 games for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto has a $3.75 million option on the 6-foot-10 right-hander, which is affordable enough. Rauch gave up 11 home runs, the most he's allowed since 2008. While a former closer, he's not exactly anyone's idea of a closer going forward. 
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Twins, Braves, Nationals

Darren Oliver14. Darren Oliver: The 41-year-old left-hander has said he'd like to pitch one more year. His 2011 proves he can still do it, appearing in 61 games and putting up a 2.29 ERA. His splits against left-handers and right-handers weren't too far off, with only his strikeout rates really spiking against lefties. He had 23 strikeouts of lefties in 94 plate appearances and 21 against right-handers in 121 plate appearances. Righties had an OPS of .594 against him, lefties .587. He's spent 10 of his 18 seasons in Texas in three stints. It seems like a perfect fit for him to return.
Possible teams: Rangers, Cardinals

Jason Frasor15. Jason Frasor: The White Sox hold a $3.75 million option for 2012, but the right-hander struggled after being part of the trade that sent him to his hometown at the trade deadline. Frasor was part of the massive three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays and Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. In 20 appearances for the White Sox, he had a 5.09 ERA, but did strike out more than a batter an inning (20 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings). He had a 2.98 ERA in 44 appearances for the Blue Jays. 
Possible teams: White Sox, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks

Brad Lidge16. Brad Lidge: The Phillies declined a $12.5 million option on their former closer, giving him a $1.5 million buyout. Lidge missed most of the season with a shoulder strain, but did pitch well upon his return, putting up just a 1.40 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 23 in 19 1/3 innings. Lidge has said he's open to returning as a set-up man, but it appears his days of closing for the Phillies are done, even with Ryan Madson as a free agent. Still, Philadelphia needed several closers to get through the season and having Lidge back could be a good backup plan. Neither side has ruled out a return for Lidge at Citizen's Bank Park.
Possible teams: Phillies, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels

Dan Wheeler17. Dan Wheeler: The Red Sox hold a $3 million option on the right-hander who will be 34 next season. After coming over from the Rays, Wheeler put up a 4.38 ERA out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wheeler spent some time on the disabled list with  a calf strain and then was unavailable down the stretch with forearm stiffness. His health will be major issue Boston's decision to bring him back. If deemed healthy, it would seem he'd have a good chance of returning to the Red Sox. Wheeler had a better xFIP (3.71) than ERA, with a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) than he did in either of the past three seasons (.272).
Possible teams: Red Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels

Frank Francisco18. Frank Francisco: Francisco is a Type B free agent, and the Blue Jays will likely offer him arbitration. The 32-year-old right-hander came over in the Mike Napoli trade and picked up 17 saves for the Blue Jays, putting up a 3.55 ERA in 54 games. He struck out 53 in 50 2/3 innings, walking 18. He's not exactly anyone's first choice for a closer, but he could go into a camp and compete for that job, or at least be a fill-in while some team's closer is injured.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Nationals, Astros, Padres, Phillies

Chad Qualls19. Chad Qualls: San Diego is expected to decline the $6 million option on Qualls. Qualls appeared in 77 games for the Padres in 2011, putting up a 3.51 ERA in San Diego. The Padres are reportedly interested in bringing him back, just not at $6 million. He thrived at Petco Park, earning a 2.09 ERA at home and 5.05 on the road, so it's not a stretch to expect that he would have interest in returning to the Padres.
Possible teams: Padres, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Angels

Matt Capps20. Matt Capps: Just 28, the right-hander is a former closer for the Pirates, Nationals and Twins, but saw his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) and fastball velocity (92.9 mph) drop this year and his ERA rise to 4.25, hardly the way you want to enter free agency. Capps made $7.15 million last season, earning 15 saves for Minnesota. He'll take a pay cut in 2012, likely signing another one-year deal, hoping to re-establish his worth. 
Possible teams: all of them

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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Posted on: July 2, 2011 1:30 am
Edited on: July 2, 2011 1:46 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Ellis likes Colorado



By Matt Snyder

Mark Ellis, Rockies. Well, if one day is a harbinger of things to come, the Rockies' acquisition of Ellis via trade was the correct move. Ellis had played all 1,056 games of his major-league career in an Oakland uniform before Friday night. The Rockies needed some offensive punch and didn't have much flexibility in terms of money or prospects they wanted to deal, so they took a shot on Ellis -- who just lost his starting job for the A's to Jemile Weeks. All Ellis did was go 3-5 with a double, home run, two runs and three RBI. Decent debut, eh? Obviously, Ellis isn't going to immediately transform into a beast, but he's in a cushy lineup spot -- behind Carlos Gonzalez and protected by Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies went on to win 9-0 over the Royals, so while it was likely pretty weird to play for a different team, Ellis had to have had a fun night in his new uniform.

Alexi Ogando, Rangers. Ogando, the Rangers and all Rangers fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Ogando started the season 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA, but most advanced metrics showed he was fortunate in terms of balls in play and several other measures. He had also not started more than seven games since 2007 ... in the Dominican Summer League. So when Ogando went 0-3 with a 9.31 ERA in his next three starts, the worries that he was in a permanent tailspin started to surface. Friday night's outing should, at least temporarily, alleviate those concerns. Ogando took a perfect game into the fifth and a shutout into the seventh against the Marlins. He finished with 6 2/3 innings, eight strikeouts, five hits, two earned runs and two walks. He picked up his eighth win of the season. Though Ogando faltered a bit in the seventh, this outing has to be very encouraging.

Justin Masterson, Indians. It's not the best measure of a pitcher -- considering run support and defense play such a huge factor -- but Masterson hadn't won a game since April 26. He started the season 5-0 and entered Friday night 5-6, despite a 2.08 ERA in his previous four starts. And unfortunately lots of pitchers have been trained to believe the only thing that matters are the wins and losses (which I would agree with if this was an individual sport, but I digress), so good for Masterson on picking up the win Friday. He went eight strong innings, allowing only four hits, one walk and one earned run while striking out five. He lowered his ERA to 2.85 and is having quite the season. Meanwhile, the Indians moved back into first place in the AL Central.



Mike Quade, Cubs. Randy Wells came into Friday with a 6.25 ERA and 1.64 WHIP on the season. He gave up two runs in the top of the first inning to the White Sox. After that, he settled in and pitched very well for the next five innings. Still, Quade had Kerry Wood fresh off the DL, along with Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol at the back-end of his bullpen. It's actually the only true strength the Cubs have. It was fine to run Wells out there for the seventh inning, but once he allowed a single and game-tying home run, it was probably enough to go to the 'pen. Nah, Quade let him stay in. When Wells gave up a single to Rios, Quade let him stay. A ground out from Gordon Beckham advanced the go-ahead run to second base and a walk to Adam Dunn meant Wells had allowed four of five guys he faced to reach base in the seventh. Keep in mind, Dunn has one hit in about a billion at-bats against left-handers this season and Marshall is left-handed. Plus, Juan Pierre was on deck and is also a lefty. Nah, Quade stuck with Wells. Pierre tripled in two and the game was over. To Quade's credit, he took the blame after the game (Paul Sullivan via Twitter), but this shouldn't be happening. I realize the bullpen threw 12 innings the day before, but the three-man back-end was fine to get the job done.

Frank Francisco, Blue Jays. He's not doing much to endear himself to Blue Jays' fans, is he? Francisco entered the game Friday afternoon with a one-run lead. The Jays had taken the lead with a huge Jose Bautista two-run shot in the seventh. And it was Canada Day. Francisco went out and coughed up the game nearly as efficiently as he could have. He walked Placido Polanco and then gave up a double to Chase Utley and a single to Ryan Howard -- which plated two runs and put the Phillies on top. Francisco now has nine saves but four blown saves and an ERA of 5.01.

Padres offense. Before we get into the Padres here, let's give Jason Vargas some credit. The Mariners' starter has now thrown two shutouts in his past three outings. That's outstanding, though the second one comes with a bit of an asterisk. You see, the Padres now have 13 shutout losses. In 83 games. So, basically, 16 percent of the time the Padres play a game, they don't score a run. According to Stats, Inc., this is the most shutout losses for a team prior to the All-Star break since 2004, when the Expos were shutout 13 times. And we still have more than a week of games left. In the Padres' nine games before the break, all nine are in pitcher's parks (Safeco Field, AT&T Park and Dodger Stadium). They'll see Michael Pineda, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain among other solid starters. Simply put: The smart money is on the Padres making dubious history before July 11.

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Posted on: May 27, 2011 9:58 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 11:28 am
 

Pepper: 'Walk-off' was supposed to be bad



By Matt Snyder


BASEBALL TODAY: Can the Marlins be a player in the National League East all season? Will the Brewers extend their winning streak? Danny Knobler joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more. Click on the video above to watch.

ON "WALK-OFF:" Dennis Eckersley coined the term "walk-off" during the 1988 season when he was a lights-out closer for the A's. "There's nothing like it," Eckersley said. "It's so final. And it centers strictly on you (the pitcher), unless it's a grounder between the third baseman's legs or something. Ultimately, you're the one." From there, Eck meant "walk-off" to be the pitcher -- probably the closer -- walking off the field from the pitcher's mound. It's interesting in that it's evolved into a mainstream term for the winning team. (SFgate.com)

THREE-HEADED JAYS: With Frank Francisco struggling, Blue Jays manager John Farrell has announced he'll use three closers: Francisco, Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, so it's going to be a bit of a matchup thing. (MLB.com) I understand the mentality these days is to pick on closer and stick with him, the thought process being that everyone knows his particular role. This method, however, is much more logical when you don't have a lock-down closer.

WORST POSSIBLE OUTCOME: You think you've seen a bad at-bat, at any level? Doubtful you've seen one this poor. Check out this tweet about San Diego State. Apparently they had the bases loaded and nobody out with a 3-0 count ... and popped out into a triple play. I don't think any words could really do that justice, so we'll just let it stand on its own.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: Aroldis Chapman made a Triple-A rehab outing Thursday, and he didn't have the control issues that plagued him before his DL stint. Of the 40 pitches he threw, 29 were strikes. He also struck out five batters. On the down side, he allowed five hits and three runs. (Louisville Bats Twitter) I'd still say this has to be considered a success. He's working his way back and the biggest issue pre-injury was control. If Chapman gets back to good health and is throwing strikes, he'll get guys out. His stuff is too good not to.

RANKING THE OWNERS: Jim Caple at ESPN ranked the owners of baseball, 1-30. I was most interested to see who would "win" the title of worst owner between the McCourts (Dodgers) and Fred Wilpon (Mets). It was the McCourts, which is a correct choice but really illustrates just how bad they are. One thing I found interesting was Caple spent his entire paragraph on the Yankees defending the choice (he ranked the Steinbrenners fourth). I don't blame Caple, as it seems that everyone who isn't a Yankees fan likes to freak out about the Steinbrenners and how awful they are. But the bottom line is that they demand success in the on-field product and would rather spend any profits on making the team better than pocket it. Obviously, there's a vast difference in resources, but that doesn't happen in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Those owners have kept revenue sharing money on several occasions.

HYPING HARPER: The hype for Bryce Harper just keeps growing, and it's because he's just toying with the pitching he's seeing in Class-A Hagerstown (1.056 OPS). Remember, he's only supposed to be a senior in high school. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus runs through a scouting report on Harper, and the power section jumps off the page. Harper gets a perfect score of 80 and the words "freakish" and "Superman" are included. Goldstein notes Mike Stanton was previously seen as the prospect most likely to hit 50 homers in a major-league season, and now that person is Harper. One word of caution, from the "makeup" category: "While it never came close to outweighing his talent, Harper's arrogant, confrontational style of play turned off many during his high school and college years. He has yet to really temper his style as a pro, which has already led to a couple of near-brawls due to a propensity to stare down opposing pitchers or gesticulate toward dugouts." (Baseball Prospectus)

WHERE DOES HE FIT? Another interesting list over at ESPN.com is the top 50 prospects of the draft era. I don't know how easy it is to compile something like this and it's gotta be completely subjective. Still, it's fun to see the names on there and remember the hype. From Shawon Dunston to Ben McDonald to Todd Van Poppel to Gregg Jefferies to, of course, Brien Taylor. Mr. Harper is on there, too, and he's pretty damn high. (ESPN Sweet Spot blog)

CONTACT HITTERS: We hear plenty of whining from fans about high-strikeout players, so let's give some props to the guys who make great contact. JunkStats put together the best hitters in terms of swing-and-miss rate (that is, the guys who don't do it often). Juan Pierre, Brett Gardner, Jamey Carroll, Denard Span and Todd Helton are the top five. The site also broke down swing-and-miss rates inside the strike zone and outside it. (JunkStats)

GREAT CAUSE: Yankees reliever David Robertson and his wife, Erin, have started a "fund to help those affected most by the devastating tornadoes that his David's hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL." (High Socks For Hope)

SORE HAMMY: Aramis Ramirez has been battling a tight left hamstring for the last few weeks. Does it have anything to do with why he's lost his power? ‘‘It does, but I don’t want to make excuses,’’ he told the Sun Times. ‘‘I feel good enough to drive the ball. I hit the ball on the line and hit the ball hard. I guess that’s a swing that I’ve got to find.’’ Well, he kind of just did make an excuse, but I'm not going to go after Ramirez. He's a stand up guy and always has been. Him hiding the injury for a few weeks shows he doesn't want to blame his lack of pop on anything else.

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Posted on: May 22, 2011 3:24 pm
 

Pirates not interested in trading Hanrahan

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joel HanrahanAs we get deeper into the season, we'll start hearing more and more trade rumors -- just remember, it takes two to tango.

FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal -- one of the best in the business, make no mistake -- wrote today the Rangers have made "low-level inquiries" on Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.

Well, you can call, but that doesn't mean anything is imminent.

The Pirates, you see, have a say in the matter. Pittsburgh would like to keep Hanrahan and have several reasons to do just that -- Hanrahan is under team control through 2013 and the Pirates are actually playing well this season, entering today 22-23, and are hoping to break their streak of 18 consecutive losing seasons. So far this season, he's 13 for 13 in save opportunities and has a 1.66 ERA, allowing just five runs (four earned) in 21 2/3 innings, striking out 16 and walking just five.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel confirms the Rangers have called and asked about Hanrahan, however "the overture was turned aside."

In the end, it says more about the Rangers and their concerns about Neftali Feliz's health and their lack of confidence in the rest of their bullpen. Perhaps they could call the Blue Jays about Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com