There were a lot of really good low-risk, high-reward pitcher signings this offseason. Jason Isringhausen, who we talked about earlier today comes to mind, so do Brandon McCarthy, Bartolo Colon and Philip Humber.
But another pitcher who’s been a nice low-risk, high-reward signing this offseason has been Kansas City Royals LHP Jeff Francis. Francis was once the ace of the Colorado Rockies just a couple of years ago, but a series of shoulder injuries ended his career with the Rockies.
Royals GM Dayton Moore believed Francis was healthy this offseason and signed him to a friendly one-year, $2 million contract and that signing is paying dividends now and possibly in the future. If Francis can stay healthy and keep up the quality pitching, the Royals could get something for him if they wish to trade him during the season.
Here are the pros, cons and teams that could potentially show interest in the 30-year-old from British Columbia.
Don’t be fooled by Francis’ 1-5 record. He’s pitched much better than his record indicates. As a matter of fact, take a look at this yearly comparison for Francis:
Year A is Francis’ 17-9 season with the 2007 Rockies and Year B is Francis’ 2011 season with the Royals. They are eerily similar, and you could make the strong argument that Francis is having a better season at 1-5 in 2011 then at 17-9 in 2007.
The most important thing for Francis is that he is healthy. Over the last two seasons, he’s only made 44 starts, but this year, Francis is healthy and he has answered the bell for all 10 of his starts this season.
In seven of those starts, Francis has gone six innings or more seven times. And in his last two starts, he has gone into the eighth inning.
The team acquiring Francis won’t have to give up the farm to get him. I would say one mid-level prospect and one seat filler should be enough to pry Francis away from the Royals. Moore is playing with house money when it comes to Francis and I can’t see him being greedy when it comes to trading him.
Anytime a pitcher comes back from a shoulder injury, health is a concern. Everything points to Francis being healthy throughout the course of the season, but you never know. He could go down at any time. You never want to say that about a player, but that’s reality.
I would also venture to say Francis isn’t a difference maker for a team. The MLB postseason is, for the most part, about pitchers who are hard throwers. As the Minnesota Twins on a yearly basis and the 2001 Seattle Mariners proved, having pitchers who “pitch to contact” don’t work in the postseason.
I don’t think Francis has the stuff to be overly effective in the postseason. Maybe he could pitch a Game 4 for a team, but for the most part, Francis would be acquired to get a team through the regular season.
Now that we have identified the pros and cons of Francis, let’s take a look at the teams that might be interested in him if he’s made available.
The Yankees already have two pitchers similar to Francis in Colon and Freddy Garcia, but with the uncertainty surrounding Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova being less than consistent, Francis would add depth to their rotation.
Plus, Francis is effective against LHBs and the Boston Red Sox don’t hit lefties particularly well.
I don’t think the Royals and Indians would be opposed to making a trade, and the Indians could use a veteran arm in their rotation. Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson have been great so far, but I think they could use another arm to get them through the season.
Yeah, the A’s could use another pitcher.
The Phillies will most likely be searching for offense as the season progresses, but with Joe Blanton‘s elbow looking worse than a liver and onion sandwich, the Phillies could use a fifth starter.